Late Car Accident Claims — How Long Can You Wait?

One of the most common pieces of advice after a car accident is to call the relevant insurance companies right away. But this doesn't always happen. Why might you have a legitimate delay in getting an accident claim or lawsuit started? Can you wait and still have success? Yes, and here's what you need to know about doing so.

What Can Delay a Claim?

Each person's situation is unique, and that can extend to the reasons they might not start an immediate claim. 

For instance, some injuries don't show up or start bothering a person until some time has passed. You might think that your car is fine because it looks fine on the outside, only to discover hidden damage later. Maybe you're just an extremely busy parent, traveler, or working professional and you can't find the time. Or you might simply be a procrastinator. 

Can You File a Late Claim?

If you fall into these categories, your first question is probably whether or not you can make a claim later. In fact, you probably can. Your insurance policy may have a deadline — often a month or two after the accident date — but it also likely has a clause stipulating that you can file a claim later if there is good reason. Injuries that you only discover later on would be a good reason by most standards. 

Can the Insurance Deny You?

Just because you have the ability to file a late claim, though, doesn't necessarily mean the carrier will approve it. In many cases, the longer you wait, the harder it is for the insurer to get compensated from other liable parties. Camera footage will be destroyed, witnesses will forget what happened, people move away, and proving causality gets harder. Eventually, the insurer may argue that it's too late. 

Can You Sue Someone Later?

If there is no insurance company involved or you need to sue a responsible party to get full compensation, you can also do this at a later date. Each state provides a time frame in which you can start a related lawsuit. This is known as the statute of limitations. In California, for example, you generally have two years from the accident date in which to file a lawsuit. 

Where Should You Start?

If some time has passed since your accident, the best place to begin is to meet with a qualified personal injury attorney in your state. They will guide you through the late claims and personal injury law process, helping you to find the most success no matter how long it's been.

For more information, contact a car accident attorney near you.