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John Bruscato Feb. 19, 2021

If you or a loved one has been involved in a car accident, you're probably wondering about the steps required and the time frame involved in filing the insurance claim. 

Just how long do you have to report a personal injury after a car accident? An experienced car accident attorney can help answer the question.

Car accidents can be very traumatic experiences. No matter how minor, the risk of serious injury is always present in a motor vehicle accident. 

The shock from a car crash can make it difficult for anyone to think clearly, let alone consider what needs to happen next. 

The reality of filing a car accident claim is that there are many moving parts, details, and timelines you must be aware of. You'll need to navigate them effectively to pursue the fair compensation you deserve. These details and deadlines vary from state to state, and unless you understand the specifics of your local laws and regulations, you may not be fully prepared to take proper action. 

In this article, you'll learn how long you have to file a personal injury claim. I'll explain whether you should file your claim right away or whether it makes more sense to delay and file your settlement claim at a later time. 

Keep reading to learn what to do about your claim if you've been in a car accident. 

Filing a Claim After an Accident

Proving that you sought medical attention after a collision is one of the first and most important things you can do to strengthen your claim. 

In some cases, injury symptoms may not appear for days, weeks, or even months after the crash. Indeed, as more time passes, it becomes harder to prove the severity of your injuries as a direct result of the auto accident. 

Your case's weight cannot be measured on your word or memory alone; you need formal documentation. 

To file a claim, make sure you: 

  • Seek medical care from a doctor right after the car accident, even if there are no visible or noticeable injuries. 

  • Do not admit fault for the accident.

  • Report the accident to the local police or insurance company within 24 hours after the accident.

  • Don't talk to the other party's insurer. And if you do, do not permit the recording of your statements.

  • Take photographs of the scene of the accident and record any important details you remember from the accident.

  • File a claim with your auto insurance company as soon as possible. 

  • Seek legal counsel from an attorney to discuss the next steps with the insurance company's settlement offer.

Note: If you were the victim of someone else's negligence, and you live in a no-fault state, you must file a claim with your insurance policy or Personal Injury Protection (PIP) policy. If you live in a fault state, you file the claim with the at-fault driver's insurance policy. 

How Long Do You Have to File a Claim After a Car Accident?

No matter how severe your accident was, if there is an opportunity to pursue rightful compensation for injuries and damages, you should take it!

Filing an insurance claim is the first step in the process. However, I must point out that reporting the accident and filing the claim are two different tasks. 

In most cases, the first step after an accident involves reporting the crash to the police via a 911 call. The time in which you report the accident and the time you must file your claim vary from state to state. In some cases, you may have as little as 24 hours to file a report, especially if the accident resulted in injury. While in other states, you may have up to 30 days to file the official report. 

The amount of time you have to file a claim or lawsuit is known as the statute of limitations. As I mentioned, every state has its own statute of limitations. And these limitations involve different time limits for different types of damages. Whether bodily injury, property damage, or otherwise. 

In most cases, your best bet is to file as soon as possible after the accident. Your insurance company is likely to tell you the same, perhaps even within 24 hours or so. 

Note: The recommended time frame to report the accident and file a claim is not always the mandatory time frame. That is, it is not always a firm requirement. And it does not rule out the option of filing a claim or lawsuit weeks, months, or even years later, as long as it's within the statute of limitation in the state where the accident occurred. The reason for this flexibility in time frame is that in some car accidents, injuries may not be symptomatic until days or weeks after the initial accident occurred. 

To summarize, as long as you file within the statute of limitations period, you're fine. 

In the next section, I'll go over some of the finer details that will help you decide when is the right time to file so you can claim injury.

Now or Later: When is The Right Time to File Your Claim? 

When I consult with clients who have been injured in auto accidents and are looking for legal assistance in navigating the claims process or moving forward with a personal injury lawsuit, I tell them the same thing: 

If you have been in a car accident, it is most often in your best interest to file your claim as soon as possible. 

The sooner you take action and file, the sooner you can begin the process of seeking financial compensation for any damages or injuries incurred from the accident. 

If you need medical treatment for your injuries or need assistance communicating with the at-fault party's insurance provider, then seeking the legal advice of an experienced professional personal injury attorney is in your best interest. 

Filing your insurance claim on or near the date of the car accident is simply the natural response to such a traumatic and potentially life-changing incident. The more time that passes and the longer you wait to file a claim with the at-fault party's insurance provider. And the longer you delay seeking medical attention or a thorough evaluation of your potential injuries, the more suspicious this looks in the eyes of insurance companies. 

Think about it this way: if you got hurt in a car crash, you would not hesitate to seek medical attention, right? Suppose you were the victim of someone else's negligence on the road, and a severe automobile accident resulted. Why would you hesitate to initiate the legal process and file a claim to seek the financial compensation you deserve to pay for any medical treatments or therapies or cover mechanical damage for your vehicle?

As I mentioned earlier, the statute of limitations is the time frame you must work within. As long as you file your claim within the statute of limitations for the state you reside in, you are on your way. 

I will now review the statutes of limitation details for Louisiana and the associated details and deadlines in the following sections.

But first, a comment on when you might want to delay filing your claim.

When Should You Delay Filing An Insurance Claim?

The main reason to delay filing is if there is a chance of delayed onset of the injury. That's because your insurance might stop covering any injuries discovered after filing an initial claim. For the same injuries, filing claims can be difficult for even the most insurance-friendly individuals. A lawsuit, or less of a problem, could occur if your claims are against the other driver's insurance and if you ultimately file a suit. Not all injuries show up for weeks or even months after the accident.

These delayed injuries may include:

  • Traumatic brain injuries: Even a relatively mild traumatic brain injury (TBI), such as a concussion, has a long-term impact. TBI injuries do not always show up right away and can result in long-term health problems such as headaches, memory loss, trouble concentrating, and mood swings. 

  • Fractures: Like TBI, fractures can be present without pain or evident to the eye.

  • Internal injuries: Injuries invisible to the human eye range from bruises to ruptures and range in severity. Internal injuries can very easily go unnoticed, and therefore, undiagnosed.

Waiting can provide you with a broader claim than filing quickly. Even if you are allowed to file multiple claims, the process will likely be more complicated and may be required to prove that the injuries claimed arose from the same accident. It's essential to allow time for your injuries to heal so you can seek other medical opinions on your overall health.

Without insurance, your bills will pile up. You are still accountable for medical bills and the injuries of any passengers in your vehicle, as well as the other driver and passengers in his vehicle. You could end up having to cover multiple people's medical bills if you wait to file under those circumstances.

Without filing a claim, you may end up incurring substantial medical bills. This may impact your credit. Filing early may result in paying for unplanned expenses, which the insurance company may deny in later claims. When you are preparing to file a claim with your own insurance, it is critical to have an experienced car accident lawyer at your side.

You should make a claim if you don't believe you're liable for the accident. The insurance money is desirable because it pays for injury treatments as soon as possible, especially if the insured may ultimately be held responsible for the injuries.

The Statute of Limitations For Car Accident Claims in Louisiana

The statute of limitation for personal injury claims and lawsuits in the state of Louisiana is one year. Under the Louisiana Civil Code Section 349 to a one-year statute of limitations will be granted to personal injury cases, any failure to file a claim or lawsuit. Within this one-year window can make you unable to take effective legal action to pursue rightful damages. So if you have been involved in a car accident in Louisiana and are entitled to compensation. Then you must file a claim within 365 days after the date of the car accident. 

Reporting a Car Accident in Louisiana

As part of the claims filing process, the insurer, the adjuster, the law firm attorney, and other involved parties will use the formal police report to help understand the nature of the case. 

According to Louisiana Revised Statutes section 32-398, drivers in the state must report any vehicle accident that:

  • results in injury to or death or 

  • results in property damages above $500.

Section 32-398 states that the driver of a vehicle involved in an auto accident that results in death or injury, or if the total property damage exceeds $100, must send a report of the accident to the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections

Particular Circumstances That Can Affect When You Should File

Claims-filing deadlines might seem straightforward at first glance, but numerous factors can affect which deadlines apply to your situation. This complication is one reason why it may be in your best interest to speak with a personal injury lawyer soon after a car accident.

Below are a few particular circumstances that can affect your filing status:

  • Wrongful death as a result: if someone died due to the accident, the statute of limitations may be different from someone who was injured and survived.

  • The age of the injured person: If the victim is a minor under the age of 18, the deadline may be extended until they reach their 18th birthday.

  • Ridesharing complications: If the victim was a passenger in a rideshare program such as Lyft or Uber, there might be more questions about who to file the claim with and which deadlines apply.

  • Uninsured drivers: If you or the other party involved in the crash are uninsured, you may need to file an uninsured motorist claim and comply with those respective guidelines and deadlines. 

  • Government vehicles: If you were involved in a collision with a government vehicle (say, a city or state employee), you should know that the government has more filing restrictions than a standard company. You'll need to file an administrative claim with the agency at fault within six months, and the government should respond within 45 days.

Seeking a Monroe personal injury attorney's expert counsel can help you determine what deadline applies to your unique situation. The claims process can be drawn-out and time-consuming. The faster you act and in the right manner, the sooner you can focus on recovering.

A Car Accident Attorney Can Help

Car accidents are always a serious matter. Sometimes they can even be life-threatening. If you have been involved in a car accident and are wondering what steps to take next, contact Bruscato Law Firm for a free consultation to discuss how to file a claim for your car accident injury. 

John Bruscato is an experienced personal injury attorney in Monroe, Louisiana, and he is here for you. He understands the importance of filing a claim as soon as possible. So you can take advantage of every opportunity to seek financial compensation and focus on your recovery. John Bruscato has successfully fought for accident victims' rights for years in Monroe and surrounding areas in Louisiana. 

If you need legal assistance preparing for a car accident claim or simply have questions about how best to navigate the claims-filing process, give us a call today at 318-855-1613 or visit us online to schedule a free confidential consultation.