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How Long After An Accident Can You Claim Injury?

By February 22, 2024March 6th, 2024No Comments

After a car accident, you may have severe injuries and be out of work. Plus, your car may be damaged or totaled. You need to file a claim or lawsuit to obtain compensation for your losses.

How long do you have after the accident to claim injury and losses? Learn more about this important topic below. A car accident attorney can answer specific questions about your car accident claim, lawsuit, or injuries.

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Claiming An Injury After A Car Accident

How Long After An Accident Can You Claim InjuryIf you suffered an injury in a car accident in your state, it’s natural to wonder how long after the incident you can claim injuries and demand compensation. The answer mostly lies in the statute of limitations for personal injury in your state.

For example, the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit in California is two years from the injury, with limited exceptions. Other states have different statutes of limitations for filing a claim, so check your state laws for more information.

How Long to Report Car Accident to Insurance?

A related question to filing a claim or lawsuit is how long you must report a car accident to your insurance. Again, you should file the claim immediately, but it depends on your state. In many states, you have 30 days from the accident date to file a report with your auto insurance.

The deadline also can differ by insurance policy, so you should refer to your policy. If you don’t follow your state’s or policy’s rules on reporting to your insurance, it allows the company to deny coverage later.

Why You Shouldn’t Wait to File a Car Accident Claim

Depending on the state, you generally have one to four years to file a personal injury lawsuit. But it’s wise to contact a car accident attorney as soon as possible and file your claim. There are several reasons for this:

Evidence May Vanish

Imagine another car hit you at a busy intersection after running a red light. You have severe injuries and lost income. Proving that the other driver was at fault requires ample evidence. If you wait a year or more to file your claim, there’s a good chance some important evidence can disappear. Witness memories also fade, so they may be unable to back your story if you wait too long to file a claim.

The longer your car accident case sits, the harder it will be for your car accident lawyer to obtain the most compensation for your injuries. In some accident cases, you may not have sufficient evidence to prove the other driver caused the crash.

Your Injuries Could Worsen

You cannot always accurately tell if you suffered an injury after a car accident. Some injuries might not reveal themselves until days after the accident.

You might have a slight headache after the car accident, but it can turn out to be a severe concussion. Or, perhaps your hand is tingling after the accident, you don’t go to the doctor, and it turns out to be a spinal cord injury.

Here are other situations where your injuries may not be initially obvious:

  • Car Accident InjuriesInternal injuries: Often caused by blunt trauma, internal injuries may not be noticeable after the accident. As the internal cavities start to fill with blood, there may only be minor discomfort at first. But you may have a severe problem that endangers your health after a few days.
  • Whiplash: This is a serious injury that you might not initially notice. Whiplash can make it hard to enjoy life and work, so the sooner you have a diagnosis, the better.
  • Brain injury: Many brain injuries go unnoticed at first. You may not feel symptoms at first or ignore them. Also, there usually are no external signs of injury. But if it isn’t treated promptly, a brain injury can worsen and endanger your life.

If you don’t report your claim quickly, the insurance company and their attorneys might question your injuries. The sooner you have a doctor check you out and report the claim, the better you have of getting full compensation.

Delays Affect Insurance Coverage

Insurance is involved in most car accident claims. You usually need to report the accident to your insurance company within a certain number of days; so does the other driver. If you don’t report the accident on time, it can affect the claim negatively.

Remember that insurance companies deal with injury and non-injury claims in different ways. If your initial claim doesn’t mention injuries, the insurance company will often take a more laid-back approach.

Claim managers usually give non-injury claims to junior adjusters who focus on car repairs, rental cars, and repairing the vehicle. The non-injury claim is paid within a month, and the file is closed.

However, when the insurance company gets an injury claim, experienced adjusters will take over the file. They will usually contact the policyholder right away, look at liability details, and get an understanding of all injuries and the value of the claim.

Delaying the claim when injuries are involved can cause severe problems for you. Filing the claim with injuries a month or two after the accident means the adjuster must rely on old information. It also means they cannot put aside money ahead of time in expectation of paying your damages.

This doesn’t change that the insurance company is liable for paying your claim. But there is a greater chance that questions will arise about your injuries and damages.

For example:

  • The liable insurance company may think you committed fraud if the initial report said you had no injuries. You probably didn’t commit fraud, but the insurer will raise questions, delaying the claim.
  • The liable insurance company can deny they’re liable if you didn’t report injuries earlier.
  • The insurance company may send a reservation of rights letter to affirm their rights and stress they have the right to decline coverage later.

You Could Lose Your Right To Sue

Remember, every state has a statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit. The statute of limitations varies by state and can be between one and four years. You can lose the right to sue if you don’t file your lawsuit quickly.

Imagine you’re stuck with thousands in medical bills and unable to work, but you can’t file a lawsuit for damages. That’s why you should retain an attorney quickly and file the claim immediately.

You Need Time to Understand Your Damages

Your car accident attorney will consider how your life has changed since the accident. This process goes far beyond your current medical bills. You also need to consider the long-term effects of your injuries.

For example, suppose a drunk driver rear-ends you at a stop sign, and your fuel tank leaks, starting a fire. You suffer third-degree burns on your arms and legs. Your injuries will require months or years of treatment, and you may need several surgeries. You may require physical therapy.

File your car accident claim as soon as you can so that you can receive proper compensation for your future medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, and loss of ability to earn a living.

Your attorney will probably wait to finalize settlement negotiations until your injuries are fully understood and you’ve achieved maximum medical improvement (MMI). But file the case as soon as possible after the accident so you can get funds quickly. Delays in filing can result in you paying out of pocket for your injuries and damages.

You’ll Have To Wait For Money

Waiting a year to file a car accident claim or lawsuit means a long delay in receiving the money you need. Imagine if you suffered a severe injury with extensive medical bills and being unable to work. How will you get by? The sooner you file your claim, the sooner you can get money in your pocket.

Other Possible Deadlines You May Face

Other Possible Deadlines You May FaceIf the police came to the accident scene, they documented your accident. But you probably must report the incident if law enforcement doesn’t come. States have various deadlines and forms for reporting accidents when police don’t come to the scene.

It is generally a smart practice to go to the police station after the accident if the police don’t arrive. Fill out the appropriate accident report form so that your bases are covered. If the other driver claims you hit them and fled, this action also covers you.

How Do Auto Insurance Companies Settle Claims?

Suppose another driver hit and injured you at a busy intersection. You call your insurance company to report the accident and injuries the same day. But the other driver caused the accident, so how is the claim handled?

If the other driver hit and injured you, your insurance company may initially pay for some of your expenses and property damage, if not everything. But eventually, your insurance company will seek reimbursement from the other driver’s insurance company.

Should You Settle a Claim or File a Lawsuit?

Every car accident case is different. Many cases can be handled by filing a claim through a driver’s car insurance company. Then, attorneys for both sides negotiate, hoping to reach a fair settlement agreement.

On the other hand, not every auto insurance company will offer a fair settlement. This frequently happens when liability is contested or serious; expensive injuries require months or years of recovery. In this scenario, filing a lawsuit and presenting the case to a jury may be necessary.

How Long Does It Take to Settle a Car Accident Claim?

The time it takes to settle a car accident claim depends on liability, injuries, complexity of the crash, and the quality of evidence. If the fault is clear, you have severe injuries, and liability is obvious, you may get a relatively fast settlement. After all, the insurance company knows you can sue, and they’d possibly have to pay much more at trial.

The case can take longer if the insurance company believes your injuries are exaggerated or questions liability. If you think the insurance company is delaying your case unfairly, talk to a car accident attorney about filing a bad faith claim.

Do You Have To Take The Insurance Company’s Offer?

No, you do not have to accept the insurance company’s offer if it seems too low. You should be careful about accepting the company’s initial offer, which is usually very low. Initial offers often test the injured party to see if they are desperate for money and will take almost anything.

Your attorney can continue negotiations for a higher settlement. But if settlement negotiations falter, you may need to file a lawsuit.

How Long Will the Claim Take if I Sue?

Most car accident cases settle out of court. In most situations, it’s better for the plaintiff and defendant to settle the case as soon as possible. For the injured plaintiff, it means getting money in their pocket sooner. For the defendant, they avoid the possibility of going to trial and being ordered to pay a lot more by the jury.

Juries tend to sympathize with injury victims who insurance companies shortchange.

If you decide to sue instead of settle, the case will take longer. Many insurance settlements can happen within a few months. But filing a lawsuit can mean waiting.

Your attorney will review your legal options and tell you if they think you should take the insurer’s final offer or go to court. That said, the ultimate decision is yours.

Contact A Car Accident Attorney Now

Car Accident Lawyer, Russell Reiner

Russell Reiner, Chico Car Accident Attorney

A car accident can saddle you with severe injuries, lost income, and indescribable pain. But you can file a claim against the other driver and receive compensation to get back on your feet.

An injury lawyer in Chico can review your case and lay out your legal options, so contact one today. Remember, your attorney doesn’t receive legal fees unless your case ends in a settlement or favorable verdict.

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