When you are involved in a car accident, it is always recommended that you notify your insurance company, even if the collision is relatively minor. Insurers want to be updated any time you are in a car accident because it can affect your insurance premiums. However, while your insurance company may prefer that you file the claim immediately, you have up to the time in the statute of limitations of the state.
In addition, the time limit for an injury claim is generally shorter than the time limit for filing a claim for property damage. An experienced lawyer will work closely with you to ensure that your claim is filed on time.
What is the Deadline for Filing a Personal Injury Claim in California?
The statute of limitations for filing a personal injury claim in California is two years from the date of the accident. If the accident resulted in a fatality, the surviving family members must file a wrongful death lawsuit within two years of the date of the person’s death. The deadline for filing a claim for property damage is three years from the date of the accident. When the plaintiff is under 18 years old, the California statute of limitations is the same, however, the clock does not start ticking until the minor’s 18th birthday.
If you fail to file your claim within this time frame, your claim will likely be denied, and you will not be able to recover any damages. In addition, you will be prohibited from bringing your case to the court at a later date.
Why is the Timing of Filing a Personal Injury Claim so Important?
While you technically have two years to file a personal injury claim, it is highly recommended that you initiate the claims process as soon as possible. One of the main reasons why this is so important is that the longer you wait to file a claim, the more difficult it will be to collect key evidence. For example, if you wait too long to file a claim for property damage for your totaled vehicle, by the time you start the process, the car may be sold for parts or auctioned off. That means you will no longer be able to present the damaged vehicle as evidence.
However, it is important to understand that some injuries do not become apparent until days, weeks, or even months after the accident. If you file a claim before you learn about the full extent of your injuries, you could reach a settlement that does not cover the full costs associated with the injury.
If you are unable to file a claim immediately following the accident because you suffered serious injuries and were rushed to the hospital, the last thing you want to think about is collecting evidence and contacting your insurance company.
However, a dedicated lawyer understands how stressful and overwhelming this can be for you, particularly when you are recovering from your injuries. Your lawyer will work with investigators to determine who is responsible for the accident and recover the evidence necessary to support your claim.
How Do I Report an Accident to My Insurance Company?
There will likely be a toll-free number for customer service or an emergency hotline on your insurance card. Call this number immediately following the accident and let your insurance agent know that you were involved in a collision. They will ask for some basic information, including your full name, policy number, driver’s license, and license plate numbers of all drivers involved in the accident, date and time of the accident, and a general description of what happened.
While you are required to disclose certain details about the accident, be careful not to say anything that suggests you were in any way responsible. Keep the following tips in mind when reporting the accident to your insurance company:
- Report your injury. Notify your insurance company that you were injured, but do not provide specific details about the injury until you have been examined by a health care provider.
- Be careful when providing statements. Do not give written or recorded statements to the insurance company until you are sure that there will be no negative legal ramifications. If you are unsure about the legal impact that your statement may have, you are urged to contact a lawyer as soon as possible.
- Answer questions. Only answer the questions that the insurance adjuster asks. Keep your answers brief and to the point. Do not offer any information that has not been requested.
- Tell the truth. Only provide the honest facts about the accident. Do not exaggerate the severity of your injury or make dishonest accusations about the other driver. If your insurance adjuster discovers that you were lying or exaggerating the facts, they may conduct an investigation, and your claim may be denied.
- Avoid accepting an early settlement offer. Insurance companies are in the business of making money. The last thing they want to do is pay claimants large sums of money in a settlement. A common strategy insurance companies will resort to is to issue a settlement offer early on, hoping you will accept the offer. Unfortunately, these are usually lowballed offers. Once a settlement offer has been accepted, you cannot negotiate for additional compensation.
What are the Fair Claims Settlement Practices?
The fair claims settlement practices regulations were established to prevent insurance companies from engaging in deception or illegal activity aimed at delaying, avoiding, or reducing the size of a claim that a claimant is eligible to receive. Under the fair claims settlement practices regulations, insurance companies are required to do the following:
- Notify you of your entitled benefits, the coverage that your policy provides, and other provisions that could impact your claim.
- Initiate an investigation within 15 days after receiving the notice of claim and provide reasonable assistance throughout the claims process.
- Accept or deny the claim within 40 days of receiving proof of the claim.
- Pay for reasonable towing expenses unless the insurer provided you with the name of a towing company before you used another towing facility.
- Offer a fair settlement. For example, if you were in a car accident and you suffered a total loss, the settlement must reflect the value of a comparable vehicle.
If the claim is accepted, the insurer has 30 days from the date that settlement was reached to pay the claim. If the insurance company plans to pursue subrogation, which is the right of the insurance company to recover damages from a third party, they must include your deductible unless you already recovered that money.
What if My Personal Injury Claim Involves a Government Entity?
There are several accident scenarios where you may be in the position of having to file a claim against a government entity. For example, if the accident was caused by poor road conditions, or if you were hit by a government-managed automobile, you will need to file a government claim. When it comes to filing a personal injury claim against a government entity, the timeline is much more urgent. Claims against a government entity in California must be filed within six months from the date of the accident.
It is highly recommended that you contact a lawyer who has a proven track record of reaching successful settlement outcomes in cases involving government entities. They will ensure that the necessary evidence is collected and documented as quickly as possible. If the accident could have been prevented, it is likely that the city or county will take steps to protect their interests and avoid a costly settlement. For example, they may take immediate steps to make repairs to the poor road conditions. As a result, you will no longer have access to key evidence that could affect the outcome of your case.
Los Angeles Car Accident Lawyers at ACTS Law Assist Clients with Every Step of the Claims Process
If you were seriously injured in a car accident, it is imperative that you file a personal injury claim in a timely fashion. Our Los Angeles car accident attorneys at ACTS Law will ensure that you notify your insurance company and file your claim within the statute of limitations. Our skilled legal team will protect your rights while assisting with the claims process. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 833-ACTS-LAWopens phone dialer or contact us online. Located in Los Angeles and San Diego, we serve clients throughout Southern California.