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

A depth-of-field shot of a gavel and an hourglass resting on top of a calendar page.Your instinct after a serious car accident will be to take time for yourself, and that’s generally a good idea. After all, you need time for your body and mind to heal, and medical practitioners will correctly advise you not to push yourself too hard.

But let’s be honest, life doesn’t slow down for you just because you’re hurt, and you have to meet the demands of your job, be there for your family, and to top it all off, you have to go through medical procedures and physical therapy to get back on your feet.

After all that, you still have to file your car accident claim and make sure it all goes smoothly so you can pay off mounting medical expenses and repair bills. And unfortunately, you don’t have forever to file your claim, with each passing second lowering the odds of a fair settlement.

What do you do in this situation? And how much time do you have to do it?

Is There a Statute of Limitations on a Car Accident in Utah?

In the case of car accidents, there are two limitations to keep in mind: three years for property damage, including that done to your vehicle, and four years for bodily injury caused by the at-fault driver.

State law provides statutes of limitations to protect people from claims made an unreasonable amount of time in the past. But more importantly, it also tries to encourage prompt and efficient compensation for people who need it.

This means that if you have been in a car accident and do not file a claim or a lawsuit to cover your injuries sustained within four years, you may no longer do so. In the same vein, you cannot file a claim or lawsuit to cover damage to your vehicle if three years have passed.

There is an exemption to this. In general, minors and persons with impaired mental functioning are considered to lack the legal capacity to understand lawsuits and claims and, therefore, cannot make them on their behalf.

In order to protect the rights of these claimants, the statute of limitations is paused or “tolled” until they are in a condition to make the claim. For minors, this means reaching majority age (18 y.o.), while for mentally incapacitated individuals, the toll is indefinite until they have capacity.

Car accident victims can file claims at any point before four (or three, for the case of vehicular damage) years pass. But claimants usually want to start as early as possible in order to avoid any delays.

Four years seems like a long time, but when you factor in recovery time from injuries and anything else you have to do, it is entirely possible to file a claim close to the limit, have the claim denied, and for the window to have passed before you are able to file again.

How Long Does It Take To File an Insurance Claim?

The time it takes to file the application for the claim itself usually takes no more than a few minutes to an hour, depending on how much spare time you have. Assuming you file your claim online, this first step is often quicker, with automated assistance to help you fill in fields.

As for how long it takes to process that claim and have the insurance company write you a check, the answer varies with a multitude of factors, some unique to each case. That said, insurers in Utah are bound by regulations that allow us to estimate a realistic time frame.

According to Administrative Code R590-190, mandated by the Utah Office of Administrative Rules, insurance providers must approve or deny claims submitted to them within thirty days of receiving them. This is considered a fair amount of time for the company to reach a decision.

Insurers are also required to respond to communications within two weeks of receiving them. Together, these rules offer claimants some degree of protection from delays in the insurance claims process.

The Office also provides some breathing room for insurance companies, however. In the event that a claimant does not submit all relevant details, they may extend deadlines while waiting for the client to provide the remaining information.

Now, you probably won’t file your claim right away. Your lawyer, if not common sense, will dictate that you take time to heal so you can get the total cost of medical treatment.

If we assume this takes two weeks, and we know that the insurance company will reply within thirty days, then we can surmise that you will probably receive an approval – or denial – of your insurance claim between four to six weeks after the accident.

How Do I Speed Up My Insurance Claim?

That estimated time frame of four to six weeks assumes that everything goes right with the insurance claims process. Although, we should stress that “going right” means the insurer comes to a decision, and you promptly receive it.

This means it is possible for you to wait six weeks only to receive the news that the insurer denied your claim. The possibility of appeal still exists, of course, but that means you have to wait another two weeks for a response and potentially another month if you have to file again.

While a denied claim does not mean you have no options left to pursue, it does waste a lot of time. It is, therefore, best to file your claim properly to reduce the risk of delays or denials before sending it to the insurance company.

What follows are some of the best practices when filing an insurance claim.

  • Document Everything: The old adage “information is king” matters here as much as anywhere else. Take pictures and video footage, contact witnesses, and keep every receipt on purchases you make related to the car accident, from medical expenses to repair costs.
  • Notify Your Insurance Provider Early: Ideally, you should notify your insurance provider that you’ve been in an accident and intend to make a claim before even leaving the accident site (unless, of course, you are seriously injured, in which case your treatment takes precedence). Filing your claim early means that even if it is denied, you still have plenty of time to spare to appeal.
  • Provide Complete Information: Missing and/or incomplete information is one of the most frequent bases for denial in the insurance industry. It quite literally pays to double-check all details on your claim form before submitting it to the insurance company.
  • Stay Proactive: It’s a good idea to follow up and check on the status of your claim around seven to ten days after you submit it. While you might not want to come across as annoying, it is in your right to ask for information, especially because you want to know if any problems develop along the way.
  • Work With Professionals: Especially for complex cases that take more time to investigate, it’s usually in your best interest to work alongside professionals who can help build your case. Medical experts can help you with any documentation regarding your injury, while personal injury lawyers can give you plenty of advantages when building or presenting your case to the payer.

Doing all this doesn’t guarantee that you get the resolution you want for your case, but it does maximize your chances with things you can do on your end. And after a car accident, some semblance of control can help you feel like you are getting back on track.

Of course, your lawyer can help you with all these and even tend to them in your stead if your injuries and damages leave you unable to act on your own. Should things not go your way, your lawyer may even escalate from a claim to a lawsuit to get you the compensation you need.

How Does Time Affect My Insurance Claim?

Time and time again – pun intended – it’s been observed that time has an adverse effect on insurance claims because of how it affects evidence. In fact, this is exactly why policemen complete reports within one or two days of an accident.

Evidence of an accident is easiest to catalog immediately after it occurs. There are eyewitnesses, potential photo, video, and audio recording opportunities, and time-limited sources, including CCTV and traffic camera footage.

It gets exponentially harder to track down these kinds of evidence over time. After several months, it’s entirely conceivable that only the official police report will remain, alongside any medical records cataloging your injuries and the treatments you underwent.

You may also lose potential evidence of healthcare treatment. Receipts fade over time, meaning as months drag on, the amount of evidence you have on hand can go down, severely impacting your ability to pursue both insurance claims and civil litigation.

The more time passes, the less evidence you will have available. The less evidence you have available, the smaller the odds of getting any value close to the highest amounts within the limits of your claim.

Avoid Delays to Your Compensation by Working With Valey Law

The more complex a case gets, the longer it tends to be, and the more likely the insurance company will deny your claim if you get it wrong. So get it right by working together with Valley Law Accident and Injury Lawyers.

Working with the right experts can shave weeks off of waiting for your check to arrive in the mail. And if, for some reason, it doesn’t arrive, a good lawyer will find other ways to get you the money you deserve.

At Valley Law, lead attorney Brigham Richards puts forward more than a decade of experience to make sure your case is handled correctly, promptly, and fairly.

Call Valley Law today at 801-810-9999 or reach out to us via our online contact form. We offer zero-cost case evaluations and do not take any money from you until we have won your case.

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