Over three years ago one of the guys where I was living backed into
my car during the night. He never said a word about it and I didn't
want a confrontation, so I didn't say anything. I want it fixed
now, but I'm afraid if I use my insurance company my rates will go
up. Can I just go to the body shop and pay out of pocket?
Yes, you can go to a repair shop and pay out of pocket for the
repairs. And, at this late date, that may be your only
No one requires you to make a car insurance claim. If you choose
to preserve a friendship rather than make a claim, that is your
choice to make -- you just end up being the one who is out the
money for repairs instead of the person who did the damage.
You didn't want a confrontation with your roommate, so you
declined to speak to the at-fault party and obtain his auto
insurance information. If you had, you could've made a claim
property damage liability coverage
and had your car fixed at no cost to you.
Unfortunately, if you were to change your mind and wanted to
pursue him for the cost of repairs now, over three years after the
fact, it's likely too late to do so.
statutes of limitations
for injury and property damage claims, or lawsuits. In most
states, you only get two to three years to file for third-party
property damage. There are states that allow up to six years,
and Rhode Island permits up to 10 years.
How long is too long?
There can be even tighter deadlines under your own
car insurance policy
Your auto policy should note how long you have to claim for
damages your vehicle sustained. It may say something
specific, like one year, or vague, like "promptly" or "as soon as
possible," but the point is that three years later is likely too
late for you to make a
Whether you're making a first-party claim through your own
insurance company or third-party claim through an at-fault driver's
liability coverages, time is really of the essence.
Waiting to make a claim for weeks or months, and especially
years, is much more likely to raise a red flag with the auto
insurer involved. If it is within the given time period for
the claim to be accepted, a late claim will be examined more
closely by the adjuster.
One reason a claim made years after the incident can become
problematic is that the insurance company needs to verify how the
damage was done and to make certain that other damage wasn't done
since the incident that you are trying to slip in and get repaired
under this claim.
Will your rates go up? Not always
For future reference, keep in mind that it might have been
possible to make an auto insurance claim without your rates going
up (but your insurer would have wanted to know who was at-fault and
gone after him to recover the money they paid out).
While one minor accident and claim may affect your rates with
some auto insurance providers, others won't rate on an accident if
it's not your fault and/or if the accident is so minor that the
repair costs are under a certain monetary amount (such as
$1,000). State laws even sometimes dictate this. (See
"If you're not at fault, will your rates go up?" for more
However, if the damage were minor enough we'd recommend paying
for it yourself, if you fail to go after the at-fault party, and
save your auto policy for big items.