How Long After a Car Accident Can You File a Claim?

motor vehicle accident

In 2021, there were over 5.4 million medically consulted injuries in auto accident cases. After a car accident, a primary concern for accident victims’ is determining the appropriate time frame for filing a claim. The statute of limitations refers to the legal timeframe within which a lawsuit must be filed. If you fail to file your claim within this timeframe, you may lose your right to seek compensation. Read on to learn how long after a car accident you can file a personal injury lawsuit.


When Should I File a Personal Injury Claim?

The ideal time to file a personal injury claim after a car accident is as soon as possible. It’s crucial not to delay the process because waiting too long may jeopardize the validity of your claim. Initiating the process promptly can significantly strengthen your personal injury case.

Additionally, evidence and witnesses are more likely to be accessible right after the accident. The sooner you file your claim, the earlier you can potentially recover compensation for medical expenses, property damage, lost wages, and other related costs.


What is the Statute of Limitations in California?

In California, the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury claim, including car accidents, is generally two years from the date of the accident. This means you have a two-year window from the date of the accident to file your lawsuit. 

However, it’s crucial to consult with a legal professional, as certain circumstances may change this timeframe. For instance, if the accident involves a government entity, the time limit for filing a claim is shorter.

Timeframe for Car Accident Claims Against a Government Entity

When a car accident involves a government entity, the process is more complex. There are strict rules and shorter timeframes for filing claims against government entities. Typically, you may be required to file a formal claim within six months of the accident.

Given the complexities involved in personal injury claims, consulting an experienced personal injury attorney specializing in car accident claims is advisable. A car accident attorney can guide you through the intricate legal procedures.


Are There Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations?

Yes, there may be exceptions to the statute of limitations in certain situations. Understanding these exceptions is crucial. Some common exceptions include:

Statute of Limitations for Minors

If a minor is involved in a car accident, the statute of limitations might be extended. In many jurisdictions, the clock doesn’t start ticking until their 18th birthday. This gives them the legal right to file a claim within a specified time after turning 18.

Discovery Rule

In cases where injuries resulting from the accident were not immediately apparent, the discovery rule may apply. This rule allows the statute of limitations to start from the date the injury was discovered or should have been reasonably discovered, rather than the date of the auto accident. It’s crucial to consult with personal injury attorneys to find out the timeline you have to file a claim.


Common Car Accident Injuries

accident victim with injuries

Car accidents can cause a wide range of injuries, varying from minor bruises to severe, life-altering injuries. Some common injuries sustained in car accidents include:

Whiplash – Whiplash is a neck injury caused by a sudden, forceful back-and-forth movement of the neck, often occurring in rear-end collisions.

Fractures – Broken bones are prevalent in car accidents, especially in high-impact collisions.

Concussions and Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs) – Head injuries, including concussions and TBIs, can have long-term consequences and require extensive medical treatment.

Spinal Cord Injuries – Car accidents can cause damage to the spinal cord, potentially leading to paralysis or other debilitating conditions.

Soft Tissue Injuries – Injuries to muscles, tendons, and ligaments are common and can result in chronic pain and limited mobility.

Serious injuries such as these require specific medical care and can lead to substantial medical bills, making it crucial to seek compensation to cover the expenses.


Damages You May Recover in a Car Accident Claim

When filing a car accident claim, there are various types of damages you can seek, depending on the circumstances of the accident and the resulting injuries. These damages are generally categorized into economic and non-economic damages:

Economic Damages

Economic damages refer to the tangible, monetary losses incurred as a result of the accident. They include:

Medical Expenses – Bodily injury comes into play when the at-fault party must pay for the injured victim’s medical costs related to the accident. This can include compensation for past, current, and future medical bills, including surgeries, medications, therapies, and medical equipment.

Property Damage – Reimbursement for the repair or replacement of your vehicle and other personal belongings damaged in the accident.

Lost Wages – Compensation for income lost due to the accident, including time taken off work for medical appointments and recovery.

Future Earning Capacity – If the accident results in long-term or permanent disability, you may be compensated for the income you would have earned in the future had the accident not occurred.

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages are more subjective and do not have a specific monetary value. They include:

Pain and Suffering – Compensation for physical pain and emotional distress caused by the accident and resulting injuries.

Emotional Distress – Reimbursement for psychological and emotional trauma, such as anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbances, resulting from the accident.

Loss of Consortium – Compensation for the negative impact the injuries have on your relationship with your spouse or partner, including loss of companionship and intimacy.


Why It’s Important to Start the Insurance Claim Process Promptly

Understanding the time limits for filing a car accident claim, the types of damages you can recover, and the importance of starting the claims process promptly is essential for a successful outcome. 

Initiating the auto insurance claim process promptly after a car accident is crucial for several reasons:

Preservation of Evidence

The sooner you start the process, the easier it is to preserve crucial pieces of evidence, such as witness statements, a police report, medical records, and photographs of the scene. With time, memories fade, and evidence might be lost, making it harder to build a strong case.

Timely Medical Treatment

Prompt filing of the claim allows for immediate medical evaluation and treatment. This not only ensures your well-being but also provides a clear connection between the accident and your injuries, strengthening your case.

Avoiding Delays

Filing personal injury claims often involve paperwork and administrative processes. Starting early helps in avoiding unnecessary delays, ensuring a smoother and faster resolution of your claim. If the auto insurance company is delaying your case, it’s crucial to consult with a personal injury attorney.

Avoiding Statute of Limitations Issues

By starting the process promptly, you mitigate the risk of missing the deadline imposed by the statute of limitations. This ensures that you retain your legal right to seek compensation.


How Can a Personal Injury Lawyer Help My Claim?

how long after car accident can you claim injury

Legal ExpertiseCar accident lawyers specialize in personal injury law and have extensive experience handling similar cases. They understand the nuances of the legal system and can navigate the complexities on your behalf.

Negotiation Skills – Lawyers are adept at negotiating with insurance companies to secure the best possible settlement for their clients. They know how to advocate for your rights and ensure you are not taken advantage of during the negotiation process.

Court Representation – If a fair settlement cannot be reached through negotiations, a car accident lawyer can represent you in court. They will build a compelling case, present evidence, and argue on your behalf to seek the compensation you deserve.

Peace of Mind – Knowing that a dedicated professional is handling your case allows you to focus on your recovery and well-being. It alleviates the stress associated with legal proceedings, allowing you to concentrate on healing.


Contact a Car Accident Lawyer Today

If you find yourself in a situation where you’ve been involved in an auto accident caused by someone else’s negligence, don’t deal with the insurance company alone. Car accident victims often deal with serious injuries, medical costs, mental distress, and pain and suffering.

Navigating the complexities of a car accident claim can be overwhelming without the help of a skilled car accident lawyer. At Rose Accident Lawyers, we are dedicated to helping car accident victims recover full and fair compensation for their injuries and losses. Our personal injury attorneys have obtained millions of dollars in compensation for our clients. Contact us today for a free consultation.