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

Like all states, North Carolina imposes limitations on how long you have to bring a civil lawsuit when you are injured due to someone else’s negligence. In North Carolina, the general statute of limitations is just three years. This applies to both physical injuries and property damages. How long do I have to file a claim after a car accident? Here we will talk about the car accident insurance claim time limit.

Of course, this is the general rule. The law has a lot of nuances that can shorten or extend the time you have to file your case, so it’s very important to talk to an experienced car accident lawyer as soon as possible. The skilled auto accident lawyers of Strickland Agner Pittman have the experience and determination necessary to fight the insurance companies and demand the full compensation you deserve. Schedule a free consultation with our team today to talk about the car accident claim time limit.

What Is a Statute of Limitations and What Factors May Influence the Time Limit?

A statute of limitations is simply a time limit to file a claim in court. The law says that if you don’t bring your case within the designated period of time, your rights are forever barred. These rules are strict, and there are almost no exceptions. However, there are some things that can change how long you have to bring a case.

Child Victims

For instance, when a child is injured, the statute of limitations may temporarily toll until the age of majority. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should procrastinate when a child is injured. After all, there may be related claims that do not toll, such as the claims of parents or other caregivers and relatives.

Victims with Mental Disabilities

In limited situations, the statute of limitations may toll for those who are injured but cannot appreciate the nature of their injuries, such as those with mental disabilities or impairments. This is not an absolute rule, though, so you should definitely speak with an attorney rather than taking chances.

Government Defendants

While there are some circumstances that can potentially extend the time you have to bring a case, there are also things that can make the statute of limitations shorter. The government enjoys sovereign immunity from lawsuits, except where the government has specifically legislated the right to sue for damages. When the defendant is a federal, state, or municipal entity, there can be very short deadlines on providing notice to the government and presenting your claim. Sometimes the deadlines can be as short as just six months.

Insurance Policy Deadlines vs. Statutes of Limitations

One very important distinction that needs to be understood is the difference between a legal statute of limitations and a contractual deadline that may be included in an insurance policy. Insurance policies are not laws. They are merely contracts between the insurance company and the insured individual who pays the premiums.

Insurance contracts often include deadlines or limitations of their own that can require people to bring their claims within a very short period. For instance, consider three types of deadlines you may frequently see in an insurance policy:

Notice Period

When you are involved in a car accident, regardless of whose fault it was, your own insurance company will probably have a contractual provision that requires you to notify it that you were in a wreck. Some may give you 30 to 45 days, while there have been some contracts that required notification within as little as 48 hours. Make sure you know what your insurance company requires.

Limits on Uninsured Motorist Claims

If you are hit by someone who failed to carry car insurance, then you may have to file a claim with your own insurance company under an uninsured motorist policy. Although the law may give you three years to file suit against the at-fault driver, your own insurance company may have a contract that requires you to bring your uninsured motorist claim sooner.

Medical Payment Claims Deadlines

Many drivers carry optional medical payments coverage, which is designed to assist with the out-of-pocket costs of medical bills associated with a collision. Your insurance company may require that these expenses be incurred within a reasonable timeframe after an accident, and it may have an outer limit on how long you can wait to file a claim for payment of medical bills.

Why Does the Law Limit Your Right to Bring a Lawsuit?

The law attempts to strike a healthy balance between giving injured parties time to investigate and bring their claims and protecting potential defendants from complete uncertainty. It would be unfair to allow people to spend decades wondering whether they will be sued. It would be challenging for businesses to make decisions, and investing in growth would be limited.

Therefore, the law must draw a line somewhere. Each state does so differently. In North Carolina, most personal injury actions are governed by the three-year statute of limitations.

You Should Not Wait to Get Help

The main point to remember, as highlighted by the North Carolina Department of Insurance, is that insurance contracts can impose limits that are quite different from the legal statute of limitations in your case. Likewise, even if you are pretty sure you know how much time you have to bring a lawsuit, there can be unique and special facts about your specific case that could extend or even shorten the time you have to bring both your insurance claims and a lawsuit. This is why you shouldn’t put off filing a claim.

If you’ve been injured in an auto accident, contact our team of dedicated Fayetteville personal injury lawyers right away, so we can begin investigating and collecting evidence in your claim. A consultation is always free, so it costs nothing to learn about your legal options and walk through the process of what to expect. If time is running short, your attorney can also take swift actions to preserve your rights before they are lost forever.

Whether you’ve lost someone you love, or you’ve been hurt yourself, you should never put off talking to a lawyer. Contact us to learn more today.