How long after a car accident you have to claim injury depends on which state your accident occurs in. While there may be other deadlines (for reporting injuries, for example) that you must be mindful of, the statute of limitations is a universal consideration for car accident victims.
A car accident lawyer in your state can explain how long you have to pursue compensation after a car accident. They can advise on your time limits for insurance claims and personal injury lawsuits, should a lawsuit become necessary in your case.
What Are the Deadlines for Filing a Car Accident Insurance Claim?
Insurance companies may set deadlines for filing claims. These deadlines may vary from policy to policy. In many cases, the deadlines range between 30 and 60 days, though most car accident victims file their claims shortly after the accident.
Deadlines are a common theme in car accident claims and lawsuits. These deadlines make hiring a car accident attorney urgent.
What Are Statutes of Limitations for Car Accident Cases?
The statute of limitations is a deadline for filing a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.
These statutes vary from state to state, and some examples include the following:
- California: CCP § 335.1 generally allows two years for car accident victims to file a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.
- Florida: Florida Statutes § 95.11 sets a two-year statute of limitations for most car accident cases, including personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits.
- Texas: Per Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 16.003, car accident victims generally have two years to file personal injury and wrongful death cases.
- New York: CVP § 214 dictates that car accident victims in New York typically have two years to file a personal injury lawsuit but generally have three years to file a wrongful death case.
Though the two-year statute of limitations is common, other states have different windows for filing car accident lawsuits. These can range from one to six years across the U.S. An attorney can explain the statute of limitations in your state and any other rules that may affect your claim or lawsuit.
Does the Statute of Limitations Matter if I Don’t File a Car Accident Lawsuit?
Yes, the statute of limitations matters even if you don’t ultimately pursue a lawsuit. This may seem counterintuitive why does the deadline for filing a lawsuit matter if I’m not going to file a lawsuit?
- For one, you never know how your case will unfold. While attorneys and clients always hope that an insurance company will offer a fair settlement, there is no guarantee. Therefore, it’s always ideal to have the option of filing a lawsuit if necessary.
- Secondly, the threat of filing a lawsuit is an important negotiating point. If an insurance company knows you cannot file a lawsuit, the insurer gains most—if not all—the leverage.
Therefore, you must retain an attorney and allow them to negotiate while the statute of limitations remains active.
Reasons Not to Wait Before Hiring a Car Accident Attorney
In addition to statutes of limitations and claim-specific filing deadlines, hire a car accident attorney because of:
- Liable parties’ bad intentions: Liable parties may know they’re responsible from when your car accident happens. These parties may act dishonestly or unethically by trying to assign fault to you. You can protect yourself from these parties by hiring an attorney as soon as possible.
- The fading memory of witnesses and accident victims: Witness accounts can be key pieces of evidence in a car accident claim or lawsuit. However, your attorney must get witness accounts as soon as possible. If they wait, liable parties may claim that the accounts are untrustworthy because too much time has passed since the collision.
- The fragile nature of evidence: Evidence can disappear or weaken with time. If you wait to hire a lawyer to collect such evidence, you increase the risk that otherwise useful evidence will become unusable.
- The client’s need for compensation: When you pursue a claim or lawsuit, you do so because you deserve the compensation. In many cases, car accident victims truly need compensation. The sooner you start your lawsuit or claim by hiring a lawyer, the sooner your attorney can begin fighting for the money you deserve.
Once you hire your attorney, you can focus on the recovery process. Your lawyer will contact you if they need anything or if the state of your case changes.
Insurers May Use Bad-Faith Tactics to Avoid Paying the Money You Deserve
To underscore the importance of hiring a car accident attorney as soon as possible, you should know how insurance companies bully, manipulate, and mistreat car accident victims all in the name of saving money.
An insurance company that owes you compensation may:
- Use your words against you: Car accident victims are often naturally inclined to be polite. If you asked another person involved in your accident if they were OK or apologized, an insurance company might use these words against you. An insurer may claim that such statements indicate you are at fault for the accident.
- Use your actions against you: If you don’t get medical attention immediately, an insurer may claim that your injuries aren’t as serious as you claim. This is just one example of how an insurer may distort your actions to suit its own agenda.
- Misrepresent your accident: Insurers sometimes claim that one party is liable for the accident, even when evidence and witness accounts prove otherwise. An insurance company may make such claims for the reason you suspect—it’s in their financial interest.
- Misrepresent your insurance policy: Insurance policies make for dense reading. Therefore, an insurance company may misrepresent the facts of your policy, hoping that you won’t read the fine print. An attorney will read the fine print and will hold the insurer accountable for the contract it agreed to.
- Delay your claim: An insurer may delay a claim hoping that financial pressure will lead you to accept a lowball settlement offer. The insurance company may also hope that the statute of limitations expires, in which case your attorney may lose some negotiating leverage.
- Negotiate tenaciously: Insurance companies have plenty of resources and aren’t hesitant to use them. Many car accident victims hire an attorney to take on insurance companies, avoiding hard-nosed negotiations in the process.
Dealing with insurance companies is just one of the many responsibilities that an attorney can manage for you.
How a Car Accident Attorney Will Seek the Money You’re Entitled To
When a car accident attorney accepts a car accident case, they accept every responsibility that the case brings. Regardless of how your accident happened, which damages you’ve suffered, or who is liable for your damages, your lawyer will:
Investigate the Accident
Your attorney and any investigators they rely on will:
- Secure witness testimony about your accident
- Gather any direct evidence of the collision, which may include video footage of the accident
- Get the police report documenting the accident
- File a letter of spoliation to preserve any evidence that liable parties have in their possession
An investigation is a chance to secure evidence, but it can also make clear who is liable for your damages.
Upon completing the investigation of your accident, your lawyer should understand who is liable for your damages.
Car accidents happen for many different reasons, and liable parties can include:
- A motorist whose negligent actions (speeding, tailgating, drunk driving, or otherwise) cause an accident
- A motor vehicle manufacturer whose vehicle or component contributes to a collision
- A municipality that fails to repair potholes, mark streets clear, repair defective traffic signals, fix downed signage, or generally ensure safe driving conditions
- A pedestrian whose actions contribute to a car accident, as motorists sometimes swerve to avoid pedestrians in or near the roadway
Your lawyer must have the details of your accident to establish liability. Identifying liable parties will be an early priority for your attorney.
Calculate and Document Your Damages
Damages are the key focus of every car accident case. From the outset, an attorney will monitor your damages, document them, and work with experts to assign a monetary value to each damage.
Useful documentation may include:
- Bills for accident-related medical care
- Proof that you have missed work and lost income as a consequence
- Medical images of your injuries
- Testimony from mental health professionals about your psychological and emotional damages
- Invoices for vehicle repair, temporary transportation, and replacement of damaged property
Attorneys use legally accepted methods to calculate non-economic damages (such as pain and suffering). Your lawyer may use the per diem or multiplier method to establish the cost of your non-economic damages.
Fight for a Fair Settlement
Negotiating can be a particularly difficult part of car accident claims if you’re not a lawyer. Insurance company representatives may negotiate settlements day in and day out. To balance negotiations in your favor, you may choose to hire an attorney who’s also an experienced negotiator.
You can gauge an attorney’s negotiating power by reviewing the firm’s settlement history.
Take Your Case to Trial
The vast majority of car accident cases settle before a trial becomes necessary. However, a trial should always be an option for a lawyer. If a law firm has a reputation for taking cases to trial, it shows they are willing to fight for its clients’ best interests.
How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Car Accident Lawyer?
Most personal injury lawyers make their services affordable to everyone. They do this by using a contingency fee structure.
When a law firm offers a contingency fee, it means the law firm:
- Requires no upfront compensation from the client (and in fact, a law firm will likely not accept upfront compensation even if you offered)
- Pays the entire cost of completing the case.
- Receives a percentage of the client’s financial recovery, and the client does not pay anything out of their own pocket.
To receive a fee and cover its costs, the law firm must get money for its client. This provides a clear and motivating reason to fight hard for the client’s settlement or judgment.
What Does a Car Accident Settlement or Jury Verdict Cover?
A car accident settlement or jury verdict should cover all of the client’s accident-related damages. Because damages differ from one client to the next, the value of each settlement varies from case to case.
What may increase or lessen the value of a car accident case?
- The specific injuries you suffer during your car accident
- The period of time it takes to recover from your injuries
- The type of treatment and rehabilitation you need to recover from your injuries
- Whether any of your injuries cause disability
- Your emotional and psychological response to the accident
- The extent of the vehicle and other property damage from your accident
Each case is unique. A capable attorney treats each car accident claim as a blank slate, building the case from the ground up and accounting for every damage their client suffers.
You Should Get a Fair Financial Recovery for a Fatal Car Accident
The loss of life is the most devastating outcome of car accidents. Fatal motor vehicle accidents reached a 16-year high in recent years, indicating that the roads are as dangerous as ever.
Fatal car accidents may cause:
- Expensive healthcare costs for emergency care and end-of-life care
- Pain and suffering for both the decedent and surviving loved ones
- Funeral expenses
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of parental guidance
- Lost financial support
An experienced law firm can lead your wrongful death case with compassion and urgency.
How Should I Choose a Car Accident Lawyer to Lead My Case?
You may begin your search for a law firm online.
When reviewing attorneys, consider:
- Client testimonials (including online reviews)
- Case results
- Practice areas
- The impression you get during free consultations
Do not wait to find lawyers and complete your free consultations. You may face a deadline for filing your case, so connect with a personal injury attorney in Sam Mateo as soon as possible.
GALINE, FRYE, FITTING & FRANGOS, LLP - SAN MATEO OFFICE
Thank you so much for all of your legal help on my case. I’ve really enjoyed working with you and your professional team including Lisa and Mavis. I also appreciate your efforts in reaching a settlement on my behalf. I will definitely refer my clients and friends to your firm they are in need of legal representation in the future. Regards.- ADRIAN C.