Do Car Accident Claims Expire?

So a careless driver t-boned your car in a busy intersection, causing you serious injuries and major damage to your vehicle. You agree to let the driver pay for your damages directly, without filing with the insurance company so they don’t get their rates hiked. But after several months, the person stops paying you, so you decide to file a car accident claim with the insurance company.

Did you wait too long? 

The time limits to file a car accident insurance claim depend on the insurance company and your state laws. Generally, a car accident claim for personal injuries must be filed within two years by the laws of most states. Property damage claims must be filed within three years. The legal term for these time limits is known as the statute of limitations. Note that while you do not need to have the claim resolved within those time limits, you need to have it filed in the proper court. 

Car Accident Settlement

Statute of Limitations for Car Accident Claims

It is important to understand when the statute of limitations clock actually begins to run, so that your time to file the claim does not expire. Your right to make a claim typically begins on the day of the car accident and runs two or three years into the future (but check the statute of limitations laws in your state for personal injury and property damage claims to be certain). 

Note that making a claim for personal injury usually has a different deadline for a property damage claim. Make note of these dates and remember them during the car accident settlement process

It also is important to remember if you were hurt by a government employee, there are different statutes of limitation in effect. In some states, you have only six months from the date the injury occurred to file your auto accident claim. 

If the statute of limitations is close, it is vital that you file your car accident lawsuit immediately to stop the clock. Time to resolve your personal injury or property damage claim is extended automatically when you file suit. The term for this pause is known as tolling the statute of limitations. You need to file a personal injury and property claim in one lawsuit, but remember the statute of limitations are different for each. 

Car Accident Lawsuit

What Happens If An Injury From The Accident Resurfaces in the Future?

In many car accident claims, the injured party doesn’t know the full extent of their injuries for weeks or sometimes months. While it’s never a good idea to wait until the last minute, it’s also important to make sure you’re fully recovered before accepting any sort of a car accident settlement offer. The reason for this is that once you’ve accepted a settlement, even if you’re still within the statute of limitations you no longer have any recourse to collect any more compensation for the car accident.

For example, you get rear ended at a stop sign. You have a headache and go to the doctor, who diagnoses you as having a mild concussion from the car accident. You take 3 days off work and then file a claim with the at fault drivers insurance company. They make you an offer that covers your medical bills, the damage to your car, and the 3 days you miss from work. This seems fair so you sign the paperwork and cash the check, excited to move on from the accident for good.

But then a week later your neck starts to hurt. You go back to the doctor and are diagnosed with grade 2 delayed whiplash as a result of being rear ended. He recommends 2-3 months of chiropractor visits, once per week at $150 per visit. Your medical insurance doesn’t cover this, so now you are on the hook for paying thousands of dollars in medical bills out of pocket.

Car Accident Claim Filing Deadlines Vary by State

As noted above, most states provide two or three years to settle your car accident claim. If you file your case after the statute of limitations expires, the court automatically rejects your claim. This is the case even if your claim is one day late. The statute of limitations are strict because as the months pass, records get lost and memories fade. 

There are a few exceptions to the statute of limitations, such as you did not know the identity of the person who hit you, but it is hard to depend on these exceptions. 

The best course of action with your claim or lawsuit is to get it filed as soon as possible after the car accident. Take your case to a good personal injury attorney quickly and give them plenty of time to work your case. That is the way to get the best possible compensation in the end. 

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