There are time limits for how long you can wait to file a car accident claim or lawsuit. It is important to ensure you know and meet these deadlines. However, state laws aren’t the only factors determining how long after a car accident you can claim an injury. There are numerous reasons why you should consider your options as soon as possible after a crash.
Discussing your options with a car accident lawyer near you in the first days or weeks after a crash could make for a straightforward claims process. The sooner you or an attorney begins gathering and preserving evidence for your case, the better. A lawyer will also protect your rights and fight for fair compensation on your behalf from the first day.
Act as Soon as Your Injuries Allow for the Best Possible Results
There are several reasons why acting as soon as your injuries allow is a good idea. Getting an early start on your case or letting your attorney get started in the first days or weeks after a crash could mean a stronger case and better outcome.
Many car accident attorneys encourage victims to contact them as soon as their injuries are stable enough to make the call. This could mean calling from the hospital or a rehabilitation facility while your treatment continues. If an immediate family member suffered catastrophic injuries and cannot make this call now, make it for them. The law firm assesses each case based on its unique facts and advises the caller on their next steps.
Some of the benefits of prompt legal action include:
A lot of evidence in a car accident case can disappear in the days, weeks, and months after a crash. Some evidence is gone in a few hours if not preserved. Time-sensitive information could include the position of each vehicle at the collision scene, brake marks on the pavement, unidentified witnesses, and whether the at-fault party used drugs or alcohol.
Thankfully, the crash report filed by responding law enforcement officers includes much of this information. Accident scene survey experts, reconstructionists, and other investigators often use the information from this report to determine where each vehicle was and what happened. Police often check blood alcohol content exams or request blood tests when the at-fault driver goes to the hospital.
However, some key evidence is often missing from these reports. For example, attorneys often identify relevant videos from local businesses, traffic cameras, or other drivers. Most businesses only keep video for about a week before recording it. If the attorney does not request it before this occurs, they are unlikely to preserve it.
Protecting Your Rights
When you hire an attorney to manage your case, they will work to get the best possible outcome based on the crash’s facts. This requires them to take the necessary steps to protect your rights and seek fair compensation. Insurance companies are not known for wanting to settle crash cases easily and in the victim’s best interests. Instead, adjusters want to pay as little as possible to settle each claim.
This often results in some actions that could jeopardize your financial recovery. For this reason, your attorney will likely take over handling all communication with the insurer when you sign on to work together. They know how the insurance companies work and how they could use your own words against you. Allowing your lawyer to deal with the insurer on your behalf greatly reduces this risk and protects your right to a fair payout.
A Straightforward Claims Process
There is no way to know how long it could take to navigate the claims process or take a lawsuit to a civil trial. Your lawyer has no way to speed the process, either. However, there is no way a settlement will occur before you begin considering your options. By promptly considering your legal options, you could lay the groundwork for a successful case.
An attorney generally cannot demand compensation or take other action to recover monetary damages until the client’s injuries are fully healed, or there is a strong understanding of their prognosis and future care needs. However, they often build a strong case and gather as much evidence as possible before this time. Then, they act as soon as they have the remaining puzzle pieces.
Understanding Statutes of Limitations and How They Work
Each state sets its own statutes of limitations. These laws set deadlines for how long a victim has to file the initial paperwork and start a lawsuit against the accused party. This deadline only applies to getting the lawsuit started. It does not apply to filing a claim, taking the case to trial, or any other actions involved in the legal process.
Most states have laws that vary from one to four years from the date the injuries occurred. If the victim does not file a lawsuit before this deadline, they could lose the right to do so.
While this only technically affects their ability to sue, it is much more difficult to recover compensation through a negotiated settlement, too. The ability to sue and go to trial provides significant leverage in negotiations with the insurance carrier. By missing the statute of limitations, the insurer could have no reason to settle.
There Are Exceptions to Statutes of Limitations
Statutes of limitations set general deadlines for beginning a lawsuit. Some circumstances can alter the timeline in a car accident case. This could give you more or less time to act. Your attorney will determine the deadlines that apply in your case and ensure you meet them when possible.
Some exceptions could apply to your filing deadline when:
- Filing a case against a municipality or local government
- Catastrophic injuries occur
- The victim passes away
- The victim is under age 18
Sometimes, the statute of limitations pauses for the victim. Consider this scenario to understand more. A child suffers injuries in a collision. Their parents can act on their behalf, or the law tolls the statute of limitations until they reach the age of majority in their state.
This is generally age 18. After their 18th birthday, the clock begins ticking, and the deadline applies. For example, in a state with a two-year statute, a minor victim would have until their 20th birthday to sue.
Beware of Insurance Companies Pushing for a Quick Resolution
While prompt action is important, there’s no need to dive headfirst into the claims process without understanding your options. In fact, you should ensure you have the necessary facts about your prognosis and future needs before taking action.
These facts could involve:
- Healing from your injuries and being released by your doctor
- Reaching maximum medical recovery according to your doctor
- Understanding your prognosis, ongoing care, and future treatment needs
You should not consider settling your case until you know the full costs of your treatment and care, current and future. For this reason, you should beware of an insurance carrier that approaches you with an offer or otherwise pushes for a quick resolution of your case.
You Don’t Have to Accept a Low Offer From the Liable Insurer
One tactic that insurers often use is making an early offer on a case. If they recognize that you have a strong case against their policyholder, they could approach you and make an offer in the first days or weeks after an accident. While this could seem like a lot of money and an easy way to wrap up your case, it is not a good idea. This is likely a lowball offer that does not account for your future and ongoing expenses.
A good rule of thumb is to discuss any offer with an attorney before agreeing. However, your attorney is unlikely to recommend taking any settlement money before you fully know the costs of your treatment, future care needs, income losses, and property damages.
How an Attorney Can Help With Your Car Accident Injury Claim or Lawsuit?
When you work with a lawyer to manage your case, they will ensure you meet all necessary deadlines. They understand the importance of timing in a personal injury case.
They will wait until the right time to file your claim, not demanding compensation from the insurance carrier until they have the evidence necessary to document your medical care to date, estimated future care costs, prognosis, and other impacts of the crash.
They will fight for a fair payout, negotiating with the insurance company or presenting strong evidence in court to convince the jury to award just compensation.
Your Attorney Will Seek Compensation With No Upfront Fees
Car accident attorneys generally go to work on cases without charging clients any upfront fees. They instead work based on contingency. This means they receive a portion of the money they secure from a settlement or court award. The amount can vary based on state laws, the circumstances, and the individual firm.
With a contingency-fee agreement, you do not have to worry about saving for a retainer or otherwise having money to spend on hiring an attorney before they go to work on your case. This ensures everyone has access to legal representation in their car accident case. It also means you can act on your case when the time is right, not when the cash is available.
Generally, if you do not receive a payout, your attorney will not get paid. Your firm should answer any questions you have about their fee schedule in detail during your initial consultation. Do not hesitate to ask. You want to choose a lawyer who is open and honest about their fees.
They Will Protect Your Right to Seek Fair Compensation
One benefit to hiring a lawyer immediately is that they will protect your rights from the beginning. Not only will they ensure you meet all applicable deadlines in the case, but they will also handle all communications about your case with the insurance carrier. They know the tactics the insurer may use and will protect you from them.
You can trust that the insurance carrier cannot approach you with a lowball offer and tempt you to accept it when you already have legal representation. Your attorney will know how to handle this, often by providing a counteroffer as soon as they have a fair settlement range for your case.
Your Lawyer Will Manage Your Claim or Lawsuit for You
When you work with an attorney, they manage all aspects of your case. You will continue your treatment, focus on your rehabilitation, and heal from your injuries. They will worry about the rest. You do not have to worry about figuring out what to do next after an accident, determining the applicable deadlines, or knowing how to handle the insurance adjuster. Your attorney will take care of it all.
Most Car Accident Firms Can Provide Free Consultations
If you were hurt in a crash, you only have a limited time to gather evidence, build a case, and pursue compensation. Knowing the deadlines and the steps necessary before you file a claim or lawsuit are key to recovering fair compensation in your case. Working with a car accident lawyer ensures your rights remain protected and you meet all applicable deadlines.
At the same time, they will handle your claim and/or lawsuit for you while you focus on treatment, healing, and rehabilitation. You can learn more during a free consultation with a personal injury attorney in Atlanta. Most provide these case assessments for accident victims at no cost.