FAQs: How Long Do You Have to File a Car Accident Claim?
If you’ve been injured in a car accident, filing a claim is one of the first major steps on the road to recovery. But, what does this mean, exactly, and how long do you have to file a car accident claim?
You were injured in a car accident. Your bills are piling up, and you need to file a claim. It makes sense that you should do so as soon as possible; but, is there a specific deadline you need to meet? In other words, how long do you have to file a car accident claim?
All 50 states have deadlines (known as “statutes of limitations”) for car accident claims; and, in most states, this deadline is two or more years from the date of your accident. So, it may seem like you have plenty of time to file. However, there are a number of reasons why you will want to file your claim quickly—and why you will want to hire a local attorney for car accidents to represent you.
How Long Do You Have to File a Car Insurance Claim?
When it comes to the question, "How long do you have to file a car accident claim?", it is important to understand that there are actually two different types of “claims” you may need to file. These are: (i) a claim with your auto insurance company, and (ii) a claim (or “Complaint”) in court. Your state’s statute of limitations establishes the deadline for filing a claim in court.
The deadline for filing an auto insurance claim is determined by the terms of your auto insurance policy. All policies establish deadlines, although some are more specific than others. For example, while your policy might say that you have a certain number of days (i.e. 30 or 90 days) to file your claim, it might also say something like, “Policyholder must file all car accident claims within a reasonable amount of time.”
Regardless, the fact you should focus on is this: You should file your auto insurance claim as soon as possible.
Filing as soon as possible ensures that you do not have any issues with regard to deadlines, and it also helps to ensure that you will be able to receive compensation for your injuries as soon as possible. If your bills are piling up, you do not want to have to wait any longer than necessary to receive the compensation you deserve.
How Long Do You Have to File a Car Accident Claim in Court?
Ideally, you will not need to take your car accident claim to court. Your insurance company will offer a fair settlement, and you will be able to accept and move on with your life.
But, if your auto insurance claim doesn’t settle, then you may be left with no choice but to fight for just compensation at trial. Or, you might need to file a “third party” claim (i.e. against your car’s manufacturer or the other driver’s employer) in order to recover the compensation you deserve. If this is the case, then you will need to file within your state’s statute of limitations so that your car accident claim does not expire.
As a result, in addition to knowing how long you have to file an insurance claim, you also need to know the answer to the question, "How long do you have to file a car accident claim in court?"
Each state sets its own statute of limitations for car accidents. Remember: This is the deadline for filing a car accident claim in court—you may need to file a claim with your insurance company sooner (and you should file an insurance claim as soon as possible) in order to protect your legal rights.
States Where You Have One Year to File a Car Accident Claim
- Michigan (PIP claims only)
States Where You Have Two Years to File a Car Accident Claim
- New Jersey
- West Virginia
States Where You Have Three Years to File a Car Accident Claim
- Michigan (excluding PIP claims)
- New Hampshire
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
States Where You Have Four Years to File a Car Accident Claim
States Where You Have Five Years to File a Car Accident Claim
States Where You Have Six Years to File a Car Accident Claim
- North Dakota
IMPORTANT: Special Rules Apply to Car Accident Claims Against the Government
When it comes to the question, "How long do you have to file a car accident claim?", there are special rules for claims against the government. If you have a government claim (i.e. if you crashed because of an issue with the road), then the deadline to file a “notice of claim” is likely much shorter—perhaps even as short as 30 days. Since road hazards and road conditions can play a role in many different types of car accidents, this is yet another reason to discuss your car accident with a local attorney as soon as possible.
What Do You Need to Do in Order to File Your Car Accident Claim?
So, now you have an idea of how long you have to file your car accident claim. Now, how do you file your claim? Generally speaking, filing a car accident insurance claim is a fairly straightforward process (read our overview of how car accident claims work). However, filing your claim is just the start of the process; and, when you contact your auto insurance company, you need to be careful to avoid making mistakes that could jeopardize your financial recovery.
As a result, while you can handle your car accident claim on your own if you choose, you can also hire a local lawyer to handle your claim for you. In addition to dealing with the insurance companies on your behalf, your lawyer can also accurately calculate your losses; and, if necessary, he or she can file a Complaint in court before your state’s statute of limitations expires.