Even good drivers have car accidents. Indeed 6 million car accidents occur in the United States annually. Auto accidents are the leading cause of wrongful death in the U.S.
A personal injury occurs in about half of all auto accidents, and serious injuries occur in more than one-third of those car accidents. Sometimes drivers and passengers realize their injuries right away. However, some car accident injuries, such as back injuries, soft tissue injuries, and concussions, don’t manifest themselves immediately.
If you’ve recently had a car accident and you or a passenger were injured, you may be wondering how long you have to claim an injury. The answer depends on many factors, including state laws, the seriousness of the accident, and whether you are seeking to file an insurance claim or a lawsuit.
How Long After a Car Accident Can You File A Claim With An Insurance Company?
Most states allow individual insurance companies to determine how long you have to file a claim after an auto accident. Often, however, an insurance company deadline is unspecific. Instead, the insurer will say you must file a claim “promptly” or “within a reasonable time.” Your auto insurance policy will state how long you have to file an accident report and injury claim.
Why Should I File My Car Insurance Claim Quickly?
Even if your policy doesn’t set a specific time to file a claim, you shouldn’t wait too long after a car accident to start the claims process. You should file your claim promptly for several reasons.
- Collecting evidence is easier if you file right after the accident.
- The facts of the accident will still be clear in your mind and the witnesses’ minds.
- You’ll be better able to prove property damage claims.
Also, if you wait beyond the time limit to file a car crash claim, your insurance company or the other driver’s insurer could argue that too much time has passed for them to assess the injury. They may wonder why you delayed and investigate more closely. They also can argue that you violated the terms of your policy. They can then try to deny your car accident claim, including both property damage and bodily injury.
However, in many states, if the company denies the claim because you waited too late to start the insurance claim process, you’ll be able to sue the insurance provider. To continue to deny your claim, the car insurance company will need to prove that the length of time prejudiced your case or caused a hardship for the company. A free consultation with a personal injury lawyer can tell you if you can challenge an insurer that says you’ve waited too long to file a claim.
Do State Laws Affect Auto Insurance Company Deadlines?
Some state laws set specific deadlines for filing a car insurance claim with your provider after an accident. For example, New York is a no-fault state and directs that you must obtain compensation from your own insurance company after minor accidents. The deadline for filing written notice of your personal injury claim is 30 days after the accident in New York.
A law firm can advise you on whether your state has insurance claims deadlines.
Do I File With My Insurance Company or With the Other Driver’s Insurance Company?
In most cases, you’ll file your accident claim with your own collision or personal injury protection provider, which will represent you with the other driver’s insurance company. No-fault states require you to file all but the most serious car accident claims with your insurance provider. If you suffer a permanent injury or your medical treatment costs exceed your coverage, you may file with the other driver’s insurer in some states.
In at-fault states, you can make a direct claim to the responsible motorist’s insurance company for even minor injuries. Your insurer can still pursue a settlement from the other insurance company on your behalf.; however, insurers do not always offer a fair settlement. A personal injury attorney can advise you on the right car accident case procedures in your state.
How Long After a Motor Vehicle Accident Can You File a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
A personal injury lawsuit goes through the courts. The length of time an injured person has to file a personal injury lawsuit depends on the statute of limitations. Statutes of limitations exist because assessing the accuracy of a car accident claim is too difficult after time has passed. A statute of limitations also exists so that people don’t have to live their lives in fear of a personal injury lawsuit from a car crash. If you don’t file a personal injury claim before that statute of limitations expires, your case will not proceed, no matter how serious the injuries are.
The statute of limitations varies by state. The statutes vary widely from one year to six years to begin a personal injury claim.
- States with a one-year statute of limitations for personal injury claims include Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nevada, and Tennessee.
- Those with a two-year statute of limitations include Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.
- Those who require you to begin your personal injury case within three years include Arkansas, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.
- Those states with a four-year statute of limitations for accident victims to file personal injury claims are Florida, Nebraska, Utah, and Wyoming.
- Missouri has a five-year statute of limitations on personal injury claims.
- Those states which require you to file your claim within six years of the auto accident include Maine and Minnesota.
What Happens When I File a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
Most parties in a personal injury lawsuit reach a settlement before the case comes to trial. You begin the process by contacting a personal injury attorney. The attorney will ask you about the crash and review documents such as medical records, medical bills, and witness statements. The attorney will investigate the case and contact the insurance company or attorney representing the at-fault driver.
Typically, the responsible party’s insurance adjuster or attorney will offer a settlement that covers the cost of your medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and vehicle damage. The car accident lawsuit will only go to court if the attorneys cannot negotiate a fair settlement.
Where Else Should I File An Accident Report?
In most states, laws require that you report any car accident with an injury or that has property damage over a certain threshold. Most states require that you make a police report immediately before leaving the accident scene.
Even if the state does not require immediate reporting, reporting the accident to the police quickly will likely make the claims process go more smoothly. Your insurance company and car accident lawyer will want to see the police report as part of their investigation. An officer at the scene also can help determine who was at fault.
How Can a Car Accident Attorney Help An Accident Victim?
While an individual can file a claim with an insurer themselves, they may not necessarily receive a fair settlement from the other driver or their insurance company. A car accident lawyer helps ensure the victim receives a fair settlement after a crash. If you have an injury claim, you could receive payment for your medical bills, reimbursement for lost wages, and compensation for pain and suffering.
A car accident lawyer usually will take your case on a contingency basis, which means they receive a percentage of your settlement as their compensation. They’ll generally provide a free consultation that will give you a general idea of the value of your case.
What Should I Do If I’ve Been Injured in a Car Accident?
If you’ve been hurt in a car accident, you should first call the police and seek medical attention. Then, you contact a personal injury lawyer to ensure you receive compensation for your medical care, lost income, and pain.
1-800Ask-Gary is a legal and medical care hotline providing referrals to victims of car, motorcycle, truck, pedestrian, slip and fall, and workplace accidents in Florida, Minnesota, and New Mexico.