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It’s not too late to file a claim if it’s only been a few months since an incident. 

For example, let’s say you had a car accident. You initially thought you only had damage to the headlight so decided against filing a claim. You later realized that there was more damage than you thought. Is it too late to file a claim?

Typically, you have up to a year or two to make a claim. It depends on terms of your insurance policy and/or state laws. Ask your car insurance provider about its claims process and any statute of limitations in your state.

That said, it’s best to report the accident as soon as possible, so the car insurance company is aware that your vehicle was damaged. A car insurance company will give you less grief than if you had an accident months ago and just were getting around to reporting it.

However, be prepared for the insurance adjuster to scrutinize the claim and make certain that all the damage came from that one incident during the wintertime. Auto insurance companies tend to be suspicious of someone reporting additional damage many months later. It should be OK as long as your description of the accident and the damage match and the adjuster can clearly see it was all from one incident. 

If, for some reason, the adjuster believes the newly found damage and the headlight damage you previously reported didn’t occur at the same time, you would be asked to make two claims and pay two deductibles to get all damages repaired.

If the damage is minor, you may want to forget about making a claim and pay personally for the repair costs. This would keep a claim off your auto insurance claims history, and likely help keep your future car insurance rates from going up.

If you have to file an insurance claim and your rates rise, all is not lost. You can comparison shop for car insurance rate quotes, and possibly save hundreds of dollars with an insurer that doesn’t rate as harshly on claims.

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Penny Gusner


Penny is an expert on insurance procedures, rates, policies and claims. She has extensive knowledge of all major insurance lines -- auto, homeowners, life and health insurance. She has been answering consumers’ questions as an analyst for more than 15 years and has been featured in numerous major media outlets, including the Washington Post and Kiplinger’s.