You filed an auto insurance claim, and you are still waiting to receive payment. Now you need to know, “How long can a car accident claim stay open?”
When you file an auto insurance claim, you expect to face struggles. But, you also expect to receive payment eventually. However, the process can take longer than most people expect – for a variety of different reasons – and, as a result, it is important to be both diligent and patient. At some point, you may begin to wonder, “How long can a car accident claim stay open?” This is an important question, and you need to know the answer to make sure you do not lose your legal rights.
The short answer to this question is: There is no set deadline or timeframe for resolving a car accident insurance claim. However, there are deadlines for filing a claim—and these deadlines apply to both (i) the claim you file with your insurance company, and (ii) the claim you file in court.
An Important Fact about Car Accident Claims
This distinction between the two deadlines for filing a car accident claim raises an important issue: The word “claim” actually means two different things in the context of recovering your losses after a car accident. First, there is the claim you file with your insurance company. This is a claim under your (or the other driver’s) auto insurance policy, and it is a claim that you file with the insurance company directly.
Second, there is the claim that you file in court if the insurance companies won’t pay. This claim initiates a formal lawsuit, and the deadline is established by your state’s statute of limitations for car accident claims. If you miss this deadline, you can lose your legal rights entirely—even if you are in the middle of trying to negotiate a settlement with the insurance companies.
The deadline for filing a claim with your insurance company is established by your auto insurance policy. While some policies state a specific number of days, others require policyholders to file their claims within a “reasonable” amount of time. Regardless of what your policy says, you should file your claim promptly in order to avoid any issues; and, if your insurance company says you waited to long, you should seek help from a local attorney.
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Once You File a Claim, How Long Can Your Car Accident Claim Stay Open?
So, those are the two deadlines for filing a car accident claim. Now, how long can a car accident claim stay open? As we mentioned above, there is not a concrete answer to this question. While there is a deadline to file, there is not a deadline to resolve, and insurance claims can potentially take anywhere from several weeks to several years to come to a close.
With that said, there are some factors that will influence how long an insurance claim remains open. Additionally, if you do not file a lawsuit before your state’s statute of limitations expires, then the insurance companies may be within their rights to close your claim without payment. With this in mind, here’s what you need to know about "How long can a car accident claim stay open?":
- In many states, insurance companies have a deadline to determine liability. In many states, car accident victims aren’t the only ones who have deadlines. Some states also require auto insurance companies to make a determination of liability within a certain number of days. This is a determination of liability (i.e. whether the insurance company has to pay) only—it is not a determination of how much you are entitled to receive. Calculating your losses after a car accident can take time, and it will be up to you and your lawyer to present adequate evidence of your damages.
- If the statute of limitations for your claim expires, your claim will be over. We mentioned this already, but it bears repeating. Even if you start the claims process on time, if you do not file a lawsuit before the statute of limitations expires, you could lose your right to compensation. This is perhaps the most-concrete aspect of the answer to, “How long can a car accident claim stay open?” If you do not file a lawsuit, then your claim will only stay open for the duration of your state’s statute of limitations. When the limitations period ends, your claim will end as well.
- After a car accident, you need to prioritize your recovery over a quick settlement. While many car accident victims what to know how long it will take their car accident claim to settle, rather than focusing on settling quickly, it is far more important to make sure you receive the full compensation you deserve. As long as you take the necessary steps, you can keep your car accident claim open for as long as it takes to accurately calculate your losses and negotiate for a fair settlement.
- If you are not ready to settle, you (or your lawyer) should remain in contact with your insurance company. When you have an auto insurance claim, you never have to settle. While the insurance company may try to pressure you into accepting a settlement (and may even tell you that you are running out of time), you are well within your rights to make an informed decision. If you need more time to understand you’re your injuries’ long-term effects, then you should simply tell your insurance company (or have your lawyer tell your insurance company) that you are still working on your claim.
- If your insurance company refuses to process your claim, you may have an additional claim for “insurance bad faith.” While the insurance companies never have to settle either, they cannot refuse to resolve your claim for no good reason. If your insurance company is making your car accident claim stay open so that it does not have to pay, then you may have an additional claim for “insurance bad faith.” State laws prohibit bad-faith insurance practices, and they provide additional compensation to car accident victims who suffer due to wrongful claim delays and denials.
FAQs: How Long Can a Car Accident Claim Stay Open?
Q: When should I settle my car accident claim?
When you settle your car accident claim is up to you. Working with your lawyer, you should work to build a case for liability, and you should carefully calculate your accident-related losses. In most cases involving serious injuries, car accident victims are entitled to compensation for their medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering—among other forms of loss.
Once you have a clear understanding of who was at fault and how much you are entitled to recover, then you can start thinking about settlement. But, until then, you should keep your car accident insurance claim open.
Q: What if the insurance company won’t settle my car accident claim?
If you present a strong case for compensation and the insurance company still won’t settle your car accident claim, then it may be time to think about taking your claim to court. Not only will this put you on the path to obtain a verdict, but it will also show the insurance company that you are serious about recovering the compensation you deserve. Many car accident claims settle after a lawsuit is filed; and, after filing your lawsuit, your lawyer can continue negotiating for an out-of-court settlement.
Q: What if the insurance company denies my claim because it was open for too long?
In some cases, insurance companies will deny car accident victims’ claims on the basis that they have been open for too long. Typically, the argument is that the victim failed to provide the insurance company with necessary information; and, as a result, the insurance company could not make a determination of liability or calculate a reasonable settlement offer.
However, in most cases, this is nothing more than a defense tactic. The insurance companies know that it takes time to collect evidence and calculate your losses; and, if your claim is denied on this basis, you should hire a lawyer to make sure that your car accident claim stays open. In this scenario, the question is not, "How long can a car accident claim stay open?", but rather, "What can I do to make sure I resolve my claim for just compensation?"
Q: Can I accept partial payment and still keep my car accident claim open?
It depends. Generally speaking, you can use insurance funds to get your car repaired and still keep the injury portion of your claim open. However, you should be careful amount accepting any partial payment from your insurance company, and we strongly recommend that you speak with an attorney to ensure that you are not waiving your right to additional compensation. If you accept an insurance check that includes “waiver” language, then the insurance company may argue that you gave up your right to seek a larger settlement.
Q: What do I need to do to make sure my car accident claim stays open?
In order to make sure your car accident claim stays open, one of the most important things you can do is to simply stay in touch with your claims representative. Let him or her know that you are still working on calculating your losses—and that you have not abandoned your claim for compensation. While you can do this on your own, you can also hire a lawyer to do it for you, and having a lawyer handle your claim on your behalf will help ensure that you do not make any costly mistakes.
In short, while there is not a specific answer to the question, "How long can a car accident claim stay open?", you can keep your claim open for as long as it takes to calculate your losses and secure just compensation. At the same time, you should be diligent, and you should hire a lawyer to ensure that your claim does not take longer than necessary.
How Can You Improve Your Chances of Settling Quickly (and for Just Compensation)?
In addition to knowing the answer to, "How long can a car accident claim stay open?", it is equally – if not more – important to know what you can do to speed up the settlement process. With this in mind, here are some steps you can (and should) take to make sure you are able to receive just compensation as quickly as possible:
- Promptly respond to all communications from your claim representative. Even if you do not have any information to provide, you should promptly respond to all communications regarding your car accident claim (or have your lawyer respond for you). This will let your representative know that you are still working on your claim, and it will help avoid any allegations that you have “abandoned” your claim for coverage.
- Prioritize your medical care and recovery. One of the aspects of a car accident claim that takes the most time is calculating your losses. In order to calculate your losses, you first need to have a clear understanding of your long-term medical needs. With this in mind, you should prioritize your medical care and recovery, and you should work with your doctor and lawyer to figure out how much your injuries will cost you in the future.
- Hire a car accident lawyer to help you. Due to the challenges involved with filing an insurance claim, it is strongly in your best interests to hire a lawyer to help you. Beyond answering, "How long can a car accident claim stay open?", your lawyer will be able to help ensure that your claim stays open for as long as necessary, and he or she will be able to negotiate for a favorable settlement on your behalf.
- Work with your lawyer to prove your claim and calculate your losses. Once you hire a lawyer, your lawyer will be able to handle many aspects of your claim for you, but he or she will still need your help. In order to keep your claim moving forward, you should respond to all calls, texts, and emails promptly, and you should work closely with your lawyer to prove your claim and calculate your losses.
- Know when it makes sense to settle your claim. Finally, you need to know when it makes sense to settle your claim. By knowing what factors to consider (and what factors not to consider), you can make an informed decision about when to resolve your claim and move on.