How Long After a Car Accident Can You Claim Injury?

  • January 25, 2019
  • Blog

A prospective client called about an accident they had six weeks earlier. He did not contact an attorney at first because he thought the injury was not serious. As the medical bills and gravity of the injury grew he knew he needed legal help.

We get a lot of calls like the fictional one above from victims in an accident anywhere from a few days to a year or more later. Sometimes it is difficult to know if your crash was grave enough to contact a personal injury attorney.

Because each case is different, it gets confusing whether you can still file a suit against the other party. This article goes over scenarios when you can pursue your case.

how much time to file an insurance claim

HOW MUCH TIME IN CALIFORNIA DO YOU HAVE TO FILE A CLAIM?

The state of California statute of limitations for personal injury cases is two years and three years for property damage.

The time limit starts when you get in the accident, not when you submit the insurance claim. That said, file the insurance claim as soon as possible because you have one year to file an insurance claim on an injury.  

Note: the deadline is the same if you are the family member of someone killed in a car crash.

WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU DID NOT DISCOVER YOUR INJURY RIGHT AWAY

A neck or back injury from an accident might not be noticeable right away. Many clients come to us up to a year later without realizing how much havoc their fender bender or collision caused on their body.

car accident injury

The more time that passes, the more causes could trigger the injury. That is why the law allows you to file a claim up to one year after you discover the injury. The insurance company wants proof before they pay your settlement.

You need to minimize any unexplained gaps in your treatment timeline. When you discover the injury, you need to seek immediate medical treatment and stick to the course of treatment the doctor recommends.

For example, if your chiropractor recommends you see them three times per day, do it. Your health and your case are at stake.

INSURANCE COMPANIES USE A STRATEGY CALLED THE THREE D’S: DELAY, DENY, AND DEFEND.

Delay– Often they delay the resolution of the claim and might switch your adjustor multiple times to postpone the payout. Some companies even refuse to accept your call for weeks at a time.

By doing this, the insurance companies benefit from the interest on your settlement. It might seem like an infinitesimal sum to you, but the aggregate value of these interest payments is in the millions for the insurance company.

insurance company aggregate interest payments

Even if you do not hear from the insurance company, do not take that as a sign they forgot about you. They use this time to check your social media and other hangouts to see if you have any cracks in your case as we talk about in defend.

Deny– By doing this, they delay payment even longer. Also, some claimants give up their case, which allows the insurance company to keep even more.

Part of the challenge with delaying your initial suit is the insurance company takes that as a sign they are innocent and deny your claim.

what to do if an insurance company denies a claim

Defend– Sometimes they might try to give you a minuscule amount now, so you don’t get a bigger payoff later.

Another part of this defense is finding cracks in your story. The more gaps you have in medical coverage, the more probable it is for them to defend their position in court.

CAR ACCIDENT WITH A GOVERNMENT VEHICLE

The one exception to the insurance cases we discussed above is when you have a collision with the government. The government has more filing restrictions than a standard company.

You have to file an administrative claim to the agency at fault within six months of the crash. The government has 45 days to respond.

If they deny the claim, then you have six months to sue the government in court. If you do not receive a rejection letter, then you have two years from the accident to file your lawsuit.

car accident with government vehicle

FINAL THOUGHTS

On average, you have 1-2 years after a car accident before you claim the injury. That varies based on the circumstances around your crash. Our San Diego personal injury law firmcan give you more details based on your specific case. 

If you want an exact answer for your case, contact Levinson Law Group today at 760-642-5475.

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