The time you take to report a car accident injury can affect your settlement. Ideally, you should report the incident to your auto insurance company within 24 hours, and you should file a claim with the other party’s insurance in under 72 hours.
In addition to car accident claims through insurance companies, you also should be aware of the timeline for filing a court claim (lawsuit) against the at-fault driver. Not acting within the specified time limits can reduce your chances of receiving the settlement you deserve and sometimes bar you from receiving anything at all.
Regardless of how minor you think the accident is, car accidents can create trauma (both physically and mentally). When you suffer from shock, it might mask your pain or the severity of your injuries. While you may feel fine, realize the longer you wait to seek medical treatment or report your injury, the harder it will be to get the compensation you need.
After a car accident, you must act quickly, especially when it comes to reporting to your insurer. In your car insurance policy, you have clauses that specifically state when you must file an injury claim – and once you go past that, the insurer does not have to compensate you.
The Two Critical Time Limits: Car Insurance and Statute of Limitations
When asking yourself how long after a car accident can you claim an injury, there are two time limits to be aware of: the statute of limitations and car insurance limits. It is essential to understand these two limits because they are very different from one another, and ignoring them could result in zero compensation.
Time Limits When Dealing with Insurance Companies
Your insurance company typically wants a claim within the first 24 hours, but their insurance clause might require it in a minimum of 72 hours. Insurance companies differ, so you should review your policy and know any pertinent time limits.
Regardless of what the policy says, the sooner you report the accident, the better for receiving compensation. When you wait too long to file a car accident claim with your or the other party’s insurer, they may question the severity of your injuries and the compensation you need.
Therefore, it is important that you first seek medical treatment after the accident. Proving that you did is crucial for your insurance claim. While certain effects are not noticed immediately, serious injuries can be diagnosed. Injuries like whiplash, for example, may take a few days to manifest fully.
After you seek medical treatment, the next step is to file your claim. When doing so, keep in mind that you should:
- Have proof you sought medical treatment. When you call to file your claim, make sure you have proof that you sought medical treatment, whether it is just the name and address of your physician or an official note from your doctor.
- Not admit fault. Even if you were not at fault, you should not admit anything that can be misconstrued as fault – like saying “maybe I was going too fast as well.” Anything you say when filing a claim with your insurer or the other party’s insurance company will be used when they determine compensation.
- Call your insurance company within 24 hours. Report the accident to your insurance company even if you are not at fault. Your insurer still must know an accident occurred and they will ask for the other party’s insurance information if they were the one who caused the incident.
- Do not wait more than 72 hours to file a claim. If you have injuries, do not wait to file your insurance claim. Make sure that you contact your insurer and the other party’s insurance in that 72-hour window.
- Do not give a recorded statement. You might be asked to provide a recorded statement, but you are not required to do so, and should not. Instead, request that you talk with an attorney first before you give any official statements to the insurance adjusters from your or the other party’s insurance carrier.
- Hire an Injury Attorney. After you have reported the accident to both sides, the next step is to meet with an injury attorney. Understanding the nuances of personal injury law is complicated, and you should be focusing on recovery rather than learning the law. An injury attorney will negotiate on your behalf with insurance companies, making sure you get the compensation you deserve.
Time Limits When Filing an Injury Lawsuit
If you plan to file a personal injury lawsuit or you have realized that negotiations with insurance companies are not resulting in the compensation you deserve, then you have a time limit for how long you have to file your claim with the court.
In the state of Washington, you must file your lawsuit within three years from the date of the incident under the Revised Code of Washington Section 4.16.080. The time limit is known as the statute of limitations. It protects defendants from being sued years after an accident (when they cannot adequately defend themselves) but also ensures that plaintiffs have access to the evidence they need to present their case.
While you have three years, you should not wait three years to get started on your claim. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to locate evidence, witnesses may forget their statements, and your attorney may have a harder time tracking down old medical records and financial statements.
Ideally, if you do not see insurance companies willing to settle right away, you should meet with an injury attorney and get the process started within that same year.
Contact a Washington Injury Firm Ready to Fight for the Compensation You Deserve
Whether it has been a few days or a month since your accident, now is the time to contact an attorney and explore your rights. Car accident injuries are serious and costly. If you did not cause the accident, you should not have to pay for the medical expenses or lost wages.