Car crash victims have a limited amount of time to seek compensation for damages they suffered. There are various deadlines that apply to the pursuit of compensation after a car crash, including the deadline for the reporting the crash, filing an insurance claim and filing a lawsuit.
Below, our experienced Harrisburg auto accident lawyers discuss these deadlines in more detail and explain why it is important to contact a lawyer as soon as possible. Making sense of these deadlines on your own can be very difficult, particularly as you battle an injury that may be keeping you out of work and causing significant pain or other symptoms.
Schmidt Kramer offers car crash victims a free legal consultation with no obligation to take legal action. If we determine you may have a case and you want to hire our firm, we do not charge upfront fees. That way there are no risks in contacting us to discuss the crash.
Reporting the Crash
It is typically best to call the police immediately after a car crash. Insurance companies often require policyholders to call the police after a crash if they want to file a claim for damages. You may also be required by state law to call the police.
In Pennsylvania, you must report the crash to the police if anyone suffers an injury or dies or the damage to one of the vehicles is so bad the vehicle cannot be driven. State law says a report must be filed with the Department of Transportation within five days of the crash.
You may not think your accident is all that serious, but crash victims tend to downplay the severity of a crash. Your injuries could get worse in the coming days, and you need to take appropriate steps to protect your potential claim for compensation. Not reporting the crash right away could hurt your credibility.
Filing an Insurance Claim
Insurance companies often have deadlines for filing claims. Typically, you have a certain number of days to file a claim and if you do not, you may lose the chance to do so.
That is why it is important to file a claim right away. If you file a claim within one day or a few days of the crash, you should not run into any issues with a missed deadline.
While you can file the claim yourself, you could also have your attorney do it for you. It is important to use caution when talking to the insurance company. They do not need to know every detail about the crash. They only need to know the basics and that you are seeking medical treatment. They can get more specifics about your injuries and other issues as they investigate the crash. If you say too much, the insurance company may find something to use against you.
One of the benefits of living in Pennsylvania is car crash claims are governed by a no-fault system. That means victims first seek compensation from the personal injury protection in their own car insurance. It does not matter who is at fault. If your treatment is considered reasonable and necessary, it should be covered by your insurance.
What About the Deadline for Filing a Lawsuit?
Filing a lawsuit is often not necessary, as victims and their lawyers are usually able to obtain a favorable settlement from the insurance company. However, if the insurance company does not make a fair offer, your lawyer may recommend taking the insurance company to court.
Pennsylvania statutes say injury victims get two years from the date of the accident to file a claim. If they miss the deadline, the other side can file a motion to have the case dismissed and this motion is highly likely to be granted by the judge. That would mean you would no longer be able to file a lawsuit against the insurance company to seek compensation for damages.
Insurance companies know the deadline and they often try to delay a claim as long as possible to give victims and their attorneys less time to file a lawsuit before the deadline passes.
Are There Exceptions to the Deadline?
While there are exceptions to the two-year deadline, it is important to talk to your lawyer about them, as he or she can determine if and when they may apply to a case.
Even though state law has various exceptions, some of them rarely come up. For example, if the defendant leaves the state for at least four months, the two-year clock does not run during that time.
If you or your loved one who was injured in the crash is a minor, he or she will have two years from his or her 20th birthday to file a claim. That could significantly extend the deadline, depending on how close the minor is to his or her 18th birthday, which is when the two-year clock begins to run.
When Should I Receive Compensation?
Once a settlement is agreed to or a verdict is reached in your court case, you should receive compensation shortly. This is something you can discuss with your lawyer, as your lawyer’s fees are paid first after the compensation is paid out.
Injured in a Crash? Call Schmidt Kramer for Experienced Legal Help
Crash victims need legal help to secure full compensation for the damages they suffered. You are not required to hire an attorney, but crash victims who do this often recover more compared to those who do not – even insurance company studies back up this point.
Call Schmidt Kramer today to learn more about how assistance from an attorney could be invaluable as you seek compensation. There are no upfront fees or legal obligations.
Contact us today for legal assistance. Call (717) 727-2089.