How Long After an Accident Can You File an Accident Claim?

A closeup of a trickling hourglass in front of a calendar on a desk.

The impact of a car accident on your life varies wildly with the context of the accident. Some rear-enders – the most common of car accidents – result in a painful neck, while high-speed head-on collisions can total vehicles and severely harm everyone involved.

Thankfully, this inconsistency isn’t the case when it comes to the processes that follow a car accident. Utah law provides a clear and comprehensive set of guidelines for how car injury and damage claims proceed, as well as the criteria for lawsuits.

But while the law is clear about how to do things, it comes staggered in different sections you still have to piece together. And sadly, the average person just doesn’t have the time to squeeze legalese into their day-to-day.

So when an accident occurs, average people – especially if they have never been in an accident before – tend to feel lost or stuck. The opposite happens too, where people take the process lightly and delay action, eventually running out of time to get anything out of their claim.

The Statute of Limitation: How Long After a Car Accident Can You Claim Injury?

The statute of limitations is a kind of grace period set by the law during which a person can file a claim or lawsuit against another party.

In Utah, the statute of limitations for injury claims is four years from the time of the accident. The law presumes that any injuries you might have sustained as a result of the accident will have manifested within that time period.

The grace period of a statute of limitations exists so claims and legal disputes can be settled within a reasonable time frame, but also as a kind of protection against old, possibly unreliable claims.

Utah uses a separate statute of limitations for property damage claims. If you need compensation for damage to your car, you only have three years to file your claim.

Does Time Affect My Injury Claim?

Yes. To be specific, time usually has a negative impact on your insurance claim.

Details of an accident are always easiest to document in the immediate aftermath. This is why police reports are done as soon as possible.

Immediately after an accident, there may be eyewitnesses available for interview as well as opportunities to gather audio, photo, and video evidence. Time-limited evidence, such as from CCTVs or doorbell cams, is also easiest to acquire in the days that follow.

These evidence trails get colder as time passes by. After a few months, it’s possible only the official police report will remain, as well as any medical records that list your injuries and treatments you receive.

Among the evidence that might be affected by time are receipts for medical treatment.

Receipts are not actually usually intended to be permanent or long-term records and so fade over time. This means as time passes, you are less likely to have evidence of treatment on hand.

This affects your ability to pursue damages from both insurance companies and civil lawsuits against at-fault parties.

Why You Shouldn’t Wait to File With the Insurance Company

When you file an insurance claim, the company will send an insurance adjuster to evaluate any documentation you have in order to make an offer. Because the amount of evidence is more comprehensive the earlier it is compiled, waiting even a few months can dilute your claim.

On the other hand, an insurance adjuster is more amenable to making a higher offer if a case for your damages is cut-and-dry. True, insurance companies are business-first, but they still have to make attractive offers to maintain their reputations.

Their offers might not be maximized, but a higher starting point means more room for your lawyer to negotiate.

Why You Shouldn’t Wait to File a Lawsuit

Most people want to avoid lawsuits. Nobody wants to get hit by them, and nobody really wants to spend resources putting them together.

However, there are times when a lawsuit is warranted. For example, if an at-fault driver refuses to take accountability and provide insurance details, the threat of a civil lawsuit can spring them into action if you can prove that they are more than 50% at fault.

And there’s the problem. As we’ve already discussed, your ability to prove another driver was at fault also diminishes with time.

This means an at-fault driver is usually going to be more confident in his ability to fend off your lawsuit if you file it late.

Whereas filing a lawsuit earlier would have had the driver sit down for a settlement, filing one later increases the odds of making it to court, where all parties have to deal with more stress, more expenses, and the possibility of walking away with nothing.

How Long Does it Take to File an Insurance Claim?

Filing the claim itself takes anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. Filing it online usually takes even shorter.

The rest of the process, on the other hand, takes longer, likely in the range of one to two months. Going back to what has been previously discussed, this time is also affected by the lapse between the accident and the decision to file the claim.

Assuming you filed your claim correctly and on time, you can typically expect the insurance company to accept or reject your claim within a time period of thirty days. This is as dictated by the Utah Office of Administrative Rules to insurance providers in R590-190, 191, and 192.

Claimants may request updates from the insurer during this period and can expect a response within fifteen days, as per the rules.

The key word here is: typically. That means if everything goes right.

This month-long window can be extended if the insurance provider cannot complete the investigation within the allotted thirty days. This is why it can take an additional month to be awarded your claim.

Delays tend to occur when multiple clients file damage claims en masse. An example of this would be after hailstorms or snowstorms when housing units and vehicles suffer weather damage.

These weather events also increase the risk of accidents on roads and sidewalks. Add all of these claims together, and it’s easy to paint a picture of why insurance companies can sometimes be slow to act.

There is also the possibility of the insurer taking two months to investigate and decide on your claim but you forget to check your communication channels for their response to you. This isn’t necessarily against the rules, as the decision was reached on time.

The worst part is when this happens, and you finally receive their response telling you your claim was denied. Now, you have to appeal their decision, potentially waiting another fifteen days before receiving a response, and still find out the company won’t budge.

Granted, that is the worst-case scenario, and it doesn’t always get to this point. But the risk is there, and you may need help making sure it doesn’t happen to your claim.

Personal injury lawyers can help expedite an insurance claim even when your provider might not be prioritizing your claim over others. Here’s how.

  • Making sure your claim is filed correctly: A lot of the time, insurance companies will choose to deny a claim over erasures, blurred characters, or misspelled words in the same way they would deny one over incorrect information. You might not notice these when filing the form yourself, so it can be helpful to have a lawyer present to review not just your claim but all the evidence that supports your claim.
  • Advocating on your behalf with the insurance company: You may not have the time to reach out to the insurer yourself, for example, due to physical and/or psychological recovery after your accident. An expert attorney can maintain communications channels with your insurance provider for updates regarding your claim.
  • Disputing decisions and making appeals: When you receive the insurance company’s response only to find they denied your claim, you might think your road to compensation ends there. This is often not the case, and a lawyer can often understand the reasoning behind the denial, address it, and appeal to the insurance company to reconsider their decision.

If, after exhausting all options, the insurance company still refuses to compensate you, then depending on how strong your case is, your lawyer can recommend filing a lawsuit where the court can compel them to pay the damages you are owed under your policy.

Your lawyer can also inform you of other options available, such as seeking compensation from the insurance provider of other parties involved in the accident. But again, the odds of success will depend on how early the claims are filed.

How Long Do You Have to File an Insurance Claim? Don’t Let Time Run Out

Four years may seem like a long time to file a claim. But when you factor in your recovery time, repairs, your job, and everything else you do in your daily life, four years can go by in an instant.

Taking action immediately after a car accident is the most surefire way to make sure your injury and damage claims move forward. Not just that, but immediate action gives you the best chance of maximizing your claim.

Call Valley Law Accident and Injury Lawyers today at 801-810-9999, or reach out to us online via our contact form found here. You’ll get a zero-cost, zero-obligation case evaluation with one of our expert personal injury attorneys.

There is no advantage to waiting. Don’t let the value of your claim go down.

Contact Valley Law today.

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