After a car accident occurs, you may want to seek compensation from any liable parties responsible for the accident. However, you only have a limited time to file before you cannot pursue compensation.
It's important to know specifically how long you have to file a car accident claim and avoid waiting too long to build a case. Consulting a car accident attorney early on can help ensure timely action and the effective development of your case.
When Can You File a Car Accident Claim?
After an accident, you may file a car accident claim either with your own insurance company or against a liable party's insurance carrier. The time you have to file a claim will vary from state to state and policy to policy. If you don't file before the time limit runs out, you may no longer be able to recover compensation, so it's important to build your case as soon as possible after an accident.
The Insurance Company's Time Limit
Insurance companies have specific car accident insurance claim time limits that can influence how much time you have to file. This time limit isn't always made clear to policyholders and claimants, but they will typically notify people to encourage them to submit a claim promptly or within a reasonable time. You can determine what the specific time limit is by reviewing your policy.
In addition to insurance companies, the state may set a time limit to file insurance claims. For example, in the no-fault state of New York, the law requires individuals to file a claim with their insurers within 30 days of an accident.
The Statute of Limitations
Sometimes, car accident victims may want to file a lawsuit instead of an insurance claim against liable drivers. In these instances, they must file a legal action before its statute of limitations expires. A statute of limitations is a law in place that establishes the amount of time people have to begin legal proceedings. The regulation differs depending on the type of legal action and the state issuing the statute.
In most states, you have around two to four years to file a legal action before you can no longer recover compensation. This may leave you plenty of time to file, but it can take time to build a suit, and time can quickly pass. You may also need to pay steep medical bills and face other expenses that pile up soon after an accident. It is ideal to file as early as possible to begin recovering compensation.
You'll want to look up your state's statute of limitations for car accidents if you're going to file a suit.
Compensation You May Seek After a Car Accident
You may be able to recover many types of compensation after a car accident, depending on the extent of injuries and other damages sustained. Remember that the costs of an accident can quickly add up, leaving you to foot the bill if you don't file an insurance claim or suit on time.
It can also take some time to identify and quantify all damages involved, which is another reason you should begin your suit early to account for all damages and seek full compensation.
The following are some of the specific types of damages you may be able to recover in a car accident claim or suit:
The main compensation that victims may recover in car accident proceedings is economic, also known as monetary. Economic damages are the financial losses that victims sustain because of a car accident, and they can include many costs associated with injuries and property damage.
For example, you may recover compensation for medical bills, lost income, lost earning capacity, damage to vehicles and other property, and the cost of rehabilitation and physical therapy. In the event of a victim's death because of their injuries, the victim's loved ones may also recover the damages mentioned above along with other costs, such as funeral and burial expenses.
Economic damages tend to be easier to calculate and prove compared to non-economic damages due to the availability of evidence and the specific monetary value attached to all expenses.
Another type of damage to consider is punitive, which is separate from compensatory economic and non-economic damages. Punitive damages come into play if a liable party acts with gross negligence or malicious intent to cause an accident. However, only the courts can award them. Punitive damages deter defendants and others from engaging in the same or similar behavior, essentially making an example of the defendant.
Why You Should Initiate Your Insurance Claim Early
Apart from avoiding passing insurance companies' and states' time limits, you'll benefit in other ways by filing a claim or legal proceedings as soon as possible after an accident.
Some of the specific benefits of filing early on include:
- Availability of evidence - Starting your case early makes evidence easier to collect. You may have better access to everything from medical records and police reports to photos and video footage of the accident, the accident scene, and any injuries and other damages sustained.
- Memories of the accident are fresh - When negotiating with insurers and talking to lawyers about the accident, the details will be fresh in your mind, making it easier to accurately and thoroughly argue your litigation. Additionally, witnesses at the scene at the time of the accident will be able to more effectively recollect the details in statements, which could also help your legal process.
- Ability to prove damages - Because the evidence is fresher, you'll be able to prove damages better and tie them to the accident. For instance, you may have medical records and photos of your injuries soon after sustaining them, making it easier to show that the accident caused them and prove their extent.
Along with these benefits, consider the potential consequences of waiting too long to file a claim or legal process. If you fail to file before the statute of limitations in your state, you will be unable to file litigation most of the time. Insurers may also deny your claim if you didn't file within their time limits, largely because it's harder to prove the damages the accident caused.
Generally, it's best to begin preparing a legal process as soon as possible after an car accident occurs. If you need assistance with building your legal dispute, an attorney may help you and provide representation.
How to Start a Car Accident Claim on Time
If you want to ensure you file a claim or litigation on time, there are multiple steps you can take to increase your chances of succeeding. These steps include the following:
Research the Time Limits for Your Legal Dispute
The first step to begin building a case is to look into the time limits that apply to your case. Where you look will depend on the specific action you want to take.
If you file a claim with your insurer in a no-fault state or believe you were at fault, you must find out how long you have, according to your insurance policy.
If you want to file a third-party claim or legal process, you must review your state's statute of limitations to find out how much time you have.
Consult an Attorney
If your accident involves extensive damages or you're unsure what to expect when negotiating with insurers or filing a legal process, an experienced car accident attorney may be able to help you.
A good car accident lawyer can meet you in a free consultation to discuss your legal action's details. The attorney may then decide to represent you when negotiating with insurers or preparing a legal dispute. Even if you cannot receive representation, the attorney may help you take the next step or refer your legal action to another attorney.
Contact Your Insurance Company
Once you've spoken with an attorney, you may begin filing your injury claim with your insurer or the liable party's insurer. Depending on the state where the accident occurred, you may be able to get help from your own insurance company when filing a third-party claim.
Gather as Much Evidence as Possible
To help support your claim or legal dispute, you must gather sufficient evidence to prove the damages you sustained from the accident.
The evidence you can gather to present to your attorney or insurers includes:
- Medical bills and records for all treatment
- Diagnostics documentation
- Police reports
- Witness statements
- Photographic or video evidence of the accident, the scene of the accident, injuries, and property damage
- Written details of your experience after the accident to prove non-economic damages
If you cannot obtain any of this evidence for any reason, an attorney may be able to assist. For example, an attorney can reach out to medical professionals or police to obtain critical documentation. An attorney can also hire expert witnesses, often career experts and professionals who can reconstruct the events of the car accident and prove liability in a lawsuit.
Communicate With Adjusters
When you begin an insurance claim, the insurer will typically assign an adjuster to conduct negotiations and collect information from claimants. Hire an attorney to help with your suit. They can communicate with adjusters on your behalf to help carefully provide information and negotiate a fair settlement.
While insurance adjusters may appear to be on your side during negotiations, it's essential to remember that they're working for insurers, not claimants. They want to find any valid reason to deny or reduce your claim, and making the wrong statement or providing insufficient evidence could hurt your suit.
This is particularly concerning if your proceedings involve costly damages and a high potential settlement amount, seeing as insurers will work even harder to deny or minimize these claims.
An attorney with experience dealing with insurers and adjusters will calculate the full settlement you can recover and continue negotiating until you recover it.
Wait for the Investigation to Complete
Once you've filed a claim and submitted all relevant information about your proceedings, the adjuster and insurance company can investigate the claim. At some point, the insurer should get back to you with an estimate or a settlement offer.
Remember that if you accept the initial settlement offer, you cannot recover any additional compensation later, even if you deserve a larger settlement for your damages. With an attorney, you may continue countering insurers' and liable parties' offers until you reach a fair settlement.
Don't Wait to File an Accident Injury Claim
In a car accident where you or a loved one sustained serious or fatal injuries, you should file a claim or lawsuit as soon as possible. Waiting too long to file could compromise your legal proceedings, from the deterioration or loss of evidence to the failure to file within the insurer or state's time limits.
With the help of a skilled personal injury lawyer in Myrtle Beach, you can determine the right actions to recover compensation soon after a car accident.