A careless driver hit your car in a parking lot. You agreed to let the driver make payments so their car insurance rates wouldn't increase. But after a few months, they've stopped paying, and now you want to file a claim with the insurance company. Have you waited too long?
Time limits on car accident insurance claims depend on the insurance policy and the laws of your state. Most states give you two to three years to file a car accident insurance claim, but your time to notify the car insurance company is much shorter and should be done as soon as possible. If you cannot settle your case with an adjuster, you must file your lawsuit.
Filing a lawsuit too late may result in having your claim denied. The legal period for this amount of time is established by what's called a statute of limitations.
Taking Texas as an example, the state law provides two years to file a personal injury claim post-accident. This is true for both bodily injury and wrongful death claims.
When Does the Clock Start To Run?
An accident victim's right to pursue a claim typically starts on the day of the accident and runs to an exact date in the future. As mentioned above, each state has its own statute of limitations.
Your personal injury claim likely has a different deadline than your property damage claim. You should find out how long your state statute is for your property damage claim and your personal injuries. Write these dates down and keep them in mind during settlement negotiations.
If you were injured by a federal, state, or local government employee, there's a different procedure for filing a claim. Also, your time limit for filing this type of claim is usually shorter.
Give Yourself Time To File
If the statute of limitations on your car accident claim is approaching its expiration date, you must file a lawsuit to beat the clock. You've met the statute once you've filed the auto accident case in court.
Depending on the laws of your state, you may be required to file both your personal injury claim and property claim together in a single lawsuit. Either way, file a lawsuit as quickly as possible.
What Happens if You File Late?
If you file after the statute of limitations has passed, the court will likely reject your claim, even if you are only a day late.
The statute takes away the court's authority to grant you relief. If you want justice for a car crash, you must diligently pursue it. You cannot just sit on your rights without doing anything. Besides, witness memories fade over time, and essential records and other accident details may get lost.
There are reasons why your claim may be filed late, such as not knowing the identity of the motorist who hit you or you were under age 18 when the accident occurred. Although exceptions to the statute of limitations exist in some states, they are not worth relying on. You could run the risk of completely losing your claim.
Initiating Contact With the Driver's Insurance
After a car accident, the first step in filing a timely claim involves obtaining the driver's insurance information. This includes their policy number, phone number, and other relevant details. The driver's insurance company should be contacted immediately, even if the at-fault driver promises to cover the damages out-of-pocket. Postponing this step might cause unnecessary complications.
Documenting the Scene of the Accident
Always make sure a police report is filled out at the scene of the accident. The police report provides unbiased documentation, which can be valuable during claim settlement. Many states have a time frame, typically one to three days, within which an accident report must be filed. It's also wise to collect as much evidence as possible after the accident, like photos or eyewitness accounts.
Handling Auto Insurance Procedures
Your auto insurance policy's terms will dictate the time frame to inform them of an accident, usually between three to seven days. Even if you weren't at fault, informing your insurance company can provide additional protection. In cases of bodily injury damages, this becomes especially important.
Your policy might have rental reimbursement or comprehensive coverage that can help you get a rental car or begin repairs on your vehicle faster than waiting for the at-fault driver's insurance company to approve these expenses.
Managing Medical Bills and Personal Injury Protection
Injuries sustained during accidents might require immediate medical attention, leading to accumulating medical bills. The personal injury protection (or PIP) clause in most car insurance policies covers medical expenses, irrespective of who's at fault. This typically spans one to two years from the accident date.
Speak to a Personal Injury Attorney for Legal Advice
Even if you feel confident you can resolve your claim through settlement negotiations, it's still wise to ensure you have plenty of time to file a lawsuit if negotiations don't work out.
A car accident lawyer can guide you through making a claim, negotiate with insurance adjusters on your behalf, and represent you in court if necessary. Personal injury lawyers can help ensure that you're treated fairly and receive the maximum compensation you're entitled to under the law.
Speak with an experienced car accident attorney to develop a strategy for the claims process and protect your right to go to court.