After an accident where you have a right to a claim, the question of when to file a claim is very important because your right to compensation does not run indefinitely.
States have different statutory time limits, after which the at-fault party is absolved from responsibility.
This guide delves into timelines for filing a claim and can be an excellent read if you want to file a claim.
Insurance Claim vs. Lawsuit
The term claim is usually used in place of a lawsuit. But the two may be slightly different in definition, approach and timelines. A claim is just as the name suggests; it is a formal request or demand to an insurer for compensation for damages suffered in an accident.
Most car accidents are resolved through a claim which can be filled through your insurer or the other driver’s insurer. After filing a claim, the insurance company accesses the damages and makes an offer. If the offer is fair and you take it, the claim is resolved, and you sign release papers.
A lawsuit, on the other hand, begins when there are disputes about a claim. For example, if you feel like the offer made by the insurance company is too little, filing a lawsuit is the only way out.
You can still agree to settle out of court with the at-fault insurer at any point but if the parties cannot come to an agreement, the lawsuit goes to trial, where the court decides on the settlement.
Deadlines for a Claim with Your Insurer
There are no statutory laws on when you can file a claim with your insurer. So insurers companies have the prerogative of defining these deadlines.
“Not many insurance companies have a specific timeline. Instead, they use terms such as prompt filing or within a reasonable time,”says attorney James G. Onder of OnderLaw.
If you take too long to file, an insurer can use the difficulty in ascertaining some facts, such as assessing the damages and the underlying circumstances, to deny your claim. However, for an insurer to use delayed filing as a reason for denying your claim successfully, they have to prove that the duration of the delay prejudiced your claim or harmed them (the insurer) in some way.
In no-fault states, policyholders file personal injury claims with their car insurer irrespective of who is at fault. In such states, you may have to follow statutory time limits, also known as the statute of limitations. States can also have deadlines for reporting an accident after it happens. For example, in New York, a no-fault state, you must report your accident to your insurer within 30 days of the accident happening. Otherwise, you lose your right to compensation.
Deadlines for filing a Claim with the Other Driver’s Insurer
All states have a statute of limitation stipulating the time window for filing a claim after an accident. This window ranges from one year to six years, depending on the state.
After the statute of limitations expires, an accident victim loses their right to compensation. You can run a Google search to establish your state’s statute of limitation to ensure you are not caught unaware.
Besides the deadlines for filing a claim, you may also want to know the ideal time to file one. Most lawyers recommend waiting until you achieve the maximum medical improvement (MMI) as long as it happens within the statute of limitation window because damage valuation becomes much easier.