In addition to all the pain, suffering, and medical bills that you have to endure as a victim of an automobile crash, you may also find yourself dealing with several legal issues. One of those issues involves navigating strict limitation periods when bringing a claim for compensation. Below, we will explain what time limits exist when filing an injury claim and why they are in place.
Remember that starting your claim as early as possible is always best. An experienced car accident attorney can explain what type of timeline you can expect when pursuing compensation and navigate the process of making a claim.
Filing an Injury Claim After a Car Accident in Fault vs. No-Fault States
The process of filing a personal injury claim to receive compensation for your medical bills and other losses incurred in a car accident differs depending on whether you live in a fault or no-fault state:
In fault states, the driver who caused the collision is considered at fault and is therefore responsible for paying for all damages suffered by the victims.
If the driver at fault has insurance, their insurance company may become involved in the claims process to cover the victims’ expenses and losses.
Most states, including Nevada, employ a fault system regarding auto insurance. Other examples of fault states include California, Texas, Arizona, Georgia, and Tennessee, among others.
No-fault states operate differently. In states that employ a no-fault system, regardless of who caused the accident, each driver’s insurance company pays for their own injuries and damages.
Even if you live in a no-fault state, you may still pursue compensation for your injuries through the other driver’s insurer if your damages exceed your policy’s limit or your injuries are classified as serious.
However, in many no-fault states, the threshold for when a driver can sue for damages is so high it is practically impossible to file a lawsuit to obtain compensation. Only 12 states have no-fault insurance laws, including Florida, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts.
You might want to speak with an experienced attorney who can advise you on your options for compensation and guide you through the legal process when filing an injury claim.
Time Limits to Consider When Claiming an Injury After a Car Accident
Never overlook the time limits for claiming an injury and reporting your accident, as your right to compensation depends heavily on your ability to meet the applicable deadlines in your state. For this reason, you must hire a car accident lawyer to manage time frames and regulations when pursuing an injury claim.
How long do you have to report your injuries to the insurance company?
Reporting your injuries to the insurance company promptly is crucial for getting the compensation you deserve. The time limit for filing an injury claim varies from one insurer to another.
While some insurers may require you to notify them within 24 hours, others may give you up to a week or more. You must check your policy and understand your insurance company’s requirements regarding submitting an injury claim.
As a rule of thumb, you should report your injuries within a reasonable time after the accident. The nature and severity of the injuries can influence this time frame. Do not wait until the pain becomes too unbearable or until you have had extensive medical treatment before you seek medical attention and report the accident to your insurer.
How long do you have to report your accident to the police?
Reporting a road accident to the police is also important in pursuing an injury claim. In most states, drivers must legally notify law enforcement agencies of crashes, especially when injuries, deaths, or significant property damage occur.
Depending on your state, the time limit for reporting the accident to the police might vary from a few hours to several days. Check your state laws regarding the reporting requirements to avoid facing legal penalties later on, or, better yet, consider speaking with an attorney to understand your legal obligations.
Note: In Nevada, motorists must submit a report to law enforcement within ten days when involved in an accident with an apparent property damage of $750 or more or if any person at the scene suffered injuries or died (NRS 484E.070). The ten-day requirement applies only when the police did not investigate the accident at the scene.
Can your insurance company deny your injury claim?
Your insurance company can deny your injury claim if you fail to report your injuries promptly or within the specified time frame. Not reporting your injuries on time will not work in your favor when the insurance company is assessing your claim.
The insurer may even accuse you of fraudulent activity if you file a claim without sufficient proof that your injuries are related to the accident or that you were involved in an accident in the first place. The more time goes by from the accident to the date you claim your injury, the more rigorous the insurer’s investigation will be.
What Is the Statute of Limitations and How Does It Work?
The statute of limitations is a law that sets the maximum amount of time a person or entity has to file a lawsuit. The timeframe varies depending on the type of case and the state where the accident occurred.
Civil cases relating to personal injury and property damage generally have a statute of limitations that varies from two to six years.
Note: In Nevada, the statute of limitations for injury claims is generally two years from the accident date (NRS 11.190).
Why is the statute of limitations important?
The statute of limitations – and other time limits affecting your injury claim – requires you to promptly file lawsuits and preserve evidence. The statute protects defendants from lawsuits for something that happened many years ago.
The Discovery Rule After a Car Accident: What if Your Injuries Did Not Show Immediately?
An automobile accident can be a traumatizing event where vehicle occupants are likely to suffer injuries. However, not all injuries immediately appear after the crash. It can take days or weeks (sometimes even months) before an injured victim starts feeling any symptoms.
Examples of injuries that may not appear immediately after the accident
While some injuries immediately manifest after an automobile accident, others may not.
Common examples of such injuries are:
- Whiplash. This is a common injury in car accidents that involves strains or sprains in the neck and upper back muscles and occurs due to the neck bending forcibly forward and then backward. In many cases, symptoms may not appear for up to 72 hours after the accident. Statistically speaking, around two million Americans experience whiplash every year.
- Concussion. A crash can cause the brain to shake inside the skull, resulting in a concussion. Symptoms, which often include headaches, dizziness, nausea, and confusion, may take days to appear.
- Internal bleeding. This is a potentially life-threatening injury that may not show symptoms for hours or days after an automobile accident. Common symptoms include abdominal pain, dizziness, or fainting.
- Soft-tissue injuries. These are injuries to the muscles, tendons, and ligaments that may not show up on an X-ray, so doctors often miss soft-tissue injuries even if the victim seeks prompt medical attention. A person who suffered soft-tissue injuries may experience symptoms such as pain, swelling, and limited range of motion.
Injuries with a delayed onset of symptoms can make it more difficult for victims to seek compensation for their medical expenses and other losses, as insurance companies typically require proof of injury before paying a claim. That is where the discovery rule comes into play.
What is the discovery rule?
The discovery rule is a legal principle that allows individuals to file an injury claim after the statute of limitations has expired if they did not discover their injuries until after the deadline had passed. This applies to victims of car accidents who may not have realized the full extent of their injuries until days, weeks, or even months after the accident
In some cases, you need a car accident lawyer to prove that the injuries resulted from the accident. An experienced attorney can gather the evidence to prove the link between your injuries and a particular accident.
What happens when you still have injuries after filing an injury claim?
If you have filed an injury claim after an automobile accident, but your injuries did not fully manifest until after the deadline had passed, your options may be limited. In some cases, the insurance company may still offer a settlement, especially if they believe the injuries directly relate to the accident.
However, if the insurance company denies the claim, you may need to file a lawsuit.
Your attorney will explain the legal options available to you and navigate the entire process from start to finish to ensure that you receive fair and full compensation.
What if you are filing a claim against a state government?
Typically, the time limits for filing a claim change when you intend to sue a state government. In most states, the statute of limitations for injury claims against the government is shorter than those against private individuals or entities.
However, Nevada is one of those states with the same time limit for injury claims against the government and private individuals or entities. In both cases, the injured victim has two years from the date of injury to file their claim (NRS 41.036).
Nevada also sets forth specific rules for filing injury claims against the government, including the requirement to file a written claim with the Nevada State Board of Examiners when starting the process.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Filing a Claim for Compensation After a Car Accident
If you suffered an injury in an automobile accident, you probably have a list of unanswered questions, many of which are related to time limits, deadlines, and other legal requirements that apply to your claim.
While the FAQ section below may answer some of your questions, consider scheduling a personalized consultation with an attorney to discuss the specifics of your case and get further assistance with your injury claim.
Why is it better to claim injuries immediately after the accident?
You need to seek medical attention and claim your injuries as soon as possible after your car accident because your health and ability to obtain compensation depend on it. Do not be tricked by your body in the aftermath of the crash.
Even if you feel fine, some injuries can take hours or days to manifest symptoms, mainly due to adrenaline that acts as a pain reliever and masks symptoms. If you wait too long to claim your injuries, the insurance company may question your credibility.
It may use it against you to reduce your recoverable amount or may even deny your claim. Additionally, if you delay filing your claim, you may forget important details, and it may become more challenging to gather the necessary evidence to support your claim as time goes by.
What evidence do I need to prove the link between my injuries and the accident?
To prove the link between your injuries and the automobile accident, you will most likely need to provide medical evidence that shows the extent of your injuries and the connection to the accident.
That is why it is critical to seek medical attention immediately after the accident and document all your medical records, bills, and any other documents that show the medical treatment you received from the date of the accident.
Additionally, you should take photos of the accident scene and the damages to your vehicle and gather the contact information of witnesses who can support your arguments.
What are the common insurance company tactics to watch out for if I take too long to file an injury claim?
If you wait too long to file a personal injury claim after a car crash, the insurance company may employ various tactics to deny your claim or pay you considerably less than you deserve.
Particularly, the insurer may argue that your injuries are not serious or were from something other than the accident. The insurance company may also try to delay the settlement process and drag out the legal proceedings to make you give up on your claim or make you more willing to accept the insurer’s lowball settlement offer.
How can an attorney help me if I didn't file an injury claim immediately after the accident?
If you did not file an injury claim right after your accident, an attorney can still use their experience to build a strong case for compensation. They can collect all available evidence, such as medical records and accident reports, to prove the origin of your injuries and negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf to ensure that you obtain the compensation you need to get your life back on track.
A personal injury attorney can also advise you on the legal options available and explain whether filing a lawsuit if the insurance company denies your claim or offers an unfair settlement is the right course of action in your situation.