How Long Do I Have To Repair My Car After An Accident?

Updated October, 2020
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You generally have a generous timeframe and multiple options when it comes to repairing your car if you own your vehicle outright. However, if you're still making payments, your lienholder requires repairs immediately as they want to make sure the vehicle remains fully functional.

Vehicle ownership—a huge determining factor

After you've been in an accident, your car may need repairs. The timeframe you have to get repairs is based mainly on whether you own the vehicle or if you're still paying down your auto loan.

I have the title to my car

Having the title to your car allows you much more flexibility in repair times. Your insurance company has 3 options for you to choose from. You can either get your car repaired, have your car totaled, or "cash-out" your car title. Cashing out your title gives you money based on how much your car was worth before the accident. Once you get your insurance company's check, it's time to decide if you want to repair your vehicle now, later, or not at all.  But, repairing your car immediately is a good idea if it's your only means of transportation. Putting off repairs can sometimes allow internal damage to show up, such as leaks and other pipe damage—not to mention it lowers the value of your car substantially.

I have a lienholder

If you have a lienholder such as a financing company or a bank, they require repairs right away. They have an interest in the car and want it to be running properly and in good condition. A lot of the times, the money for repairs gets sent to the auto shop directly, leaving you little choice unlike if you own the vehicle.

Certain insurance coverages require you to repair

Having comprehensive and collision coverage on your car is a common way to protect your vehicle. If you have these coverages, your insurer requires you to repair any damage right away. This is because these coverages are used to pay for repairs only. They don't want to insure a vehicle against future damages if it's driving around damaged already. If they let you keep your insurance, they would have to pay you even more for the second accident's compounding damage. If you fail to repair your vehicle, you're no longer allowed to have these coverages on your policy.

How long do I have to file a claim?

The timeframe required to make a claim after an accident varies from state to state, and even policy to policy. The unspoken guideline is that 24 hours is an acceptable window. However, make sure you have your police report and any other required documents to make your claim. Some states have a window that you can file a claim in. In California, you have 10 days to file your claim. Check with your state laws and your insurance company.

Insurance time limitations

Some insurance companies do have a timeframe required if you're going to file a claim. This makes the decisions of whether to wait to file a difficult one. If you wait too long to file your claim, the insurance company can deny you. They may feel you were trying to get one over on them or may have reason to believe the damage is from another incident. If you waited too long, you could miss the statute of limitations in your state to sue in court.

Is my insurance good enough to protect me in an accident?

When it comes to car insurance, there are several factors to consider beyond monthly cost. A policy that covers you when you need it, has a low deductible, and offers several discounts can be hard to find - which is why we've done the work for you.

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