You’ve been in a car accident and you’ve been dreading the call. You know the one where you have to talk to the car insurance company and potentially file a car insurance claim? Dealing with car insurance companies can feel like a nightmare, and it’s difficult to strike the balance between calling too soon and calling too late.
Or, on the other hand, you get into an accident and think no one is hurt and it will cost less than your deductible to make the repairs yourself - or you’ve privately agreed with the other driver to make payments so your car insurance premiums do not go up. But what if six months down the line you find you are injured, or your car needed expensive repairs you didn’t bank on - i.e. it took the auto body shop a few attempts before they fixed the vehicle correctly? Is there a time limit for car insurance claims? Can you file a claim six months later? A year later?
The Statute of Limitations for Mississippi
The Department of Motor Vehicles notes that there is a time limit on filing a car insurance claim and getting it settled, but the definition - and time limit - depends on each state. In Mississippi, the range is anywhere from one to seven years - with car accidents having a 3 year time limit. The clock starts ticking from the date of the incident or the date you discover you have been harmed. The two statutes of limitations that are relevant to car accidents are: Injury - 3 years (Mississippi Code 15-1-35) and Injury to Personal Property - 3 years.
It’s Best to Check Your Policy
Despite legal considerations, the length of time to file the claim also depends on what your policy states. Before filing a claim, make sure you have all of the necessary documents. If your policy will expire after your accident, but before you file a claim, your insurance company is still obligated to cover your accident.
The Benefits of Filing a Claim Quickly
Filing a claim, however, is different to notifying the police. You must report the accident to the police within 28 days. After that time period, you’ll need justification of why the report was delayed if you make any compensation claims. Make sure that once the claim has been made, you have an event number from the police. If you decide months later to file a claim, and you do not have a police report on file, your insurance company will have a hard time tracking down the others involved in the accident.
Furthermore, if you didn't gather the right evidence on the scene, or keep the information of those involved, it’ll be much harder - and, if too much time passes, the events of the accident may blur and you may not remember as clearly as you need.
There’s no downside to filing within a reasonable amount of time. Don’t rush to file a claim until you have all of the information, though, and it may be best to get a case consultation from an attorney before you do, especially for more nuanced claims.
When Is It Best to Wait to File a Claim?
If someone has been injured or it’s unclear who is at fault, you should definitely file an insurance claim. Some policies state that you need to notify them of potential claims too. If you and your vehicle were the only things involved in an accident, then you need to get a repair estimate first - before you claim - or it could cost you more in the long run. You may determine that the cost of the repair is much less than you’d pay in deductible fees, and you’d rather pay out of pocket instead of filing a claim. Furthermore, some insurance policies up the rate when you file a claim, so you’ll need to understand what is in your policy to decide which choice to make.
Most policies note that you have to file a claim “as soon as possible” or “promptly,” but you can argue that a year later is prompt enough for you, especially if you can prove there were circumstances why you waited, such as a long stay in the hospital, dealing with extensive injuries, or waiting for injuries to emerge after time has passed, and so forth. If you have been severely injured, it’s recommended that you file your claim with the help of an experienced attorney.
What Reasons Delay a Claim?
Some claims may be delayed on the insurance company’s side or yours because of...
- Poor communication
- Unhappy with coverage
- Unhappy with the repairs
- You don’t have cash for the deductible
- Major problems arise
Depending on what’s happening, you may choose to delay your claim until you’re in a better financial position; however, it’s best to discuss your case with an attorney if you’ve been badly injured.
What Kind of Claim Do I Need to Make?
The type of claim you make will depend on the damage to your person or your vehicle:
- Roadside Assistance Claim: towing claims are easy to file and get reimbursed. Many don’t ask for out of pocket payments. It may take 5-8 business days for reimbursement.
- Glass Claim: this type of claim is when you need to get your glass repaired, and these claims are usually filed quickly and you can schedule the repair within the week. OEM glass takes a little longer.
- Physical Damage Claim (to your vehicle): repairs to your vehicle may take time. Within 1-3 days of filing a claim, you’ll hear from an insurance adjuster. If the adjuster needs to look at damage, it’ll take some more time. If you use an insurance-carrier approved repair shop, the process can be sped up. A cut and dry physical damage to your car claim can take up to two weeks - but that’s if it’s simple and straightforward. If your car is driveable, you can drive it until the date of repair, which is usually coordinated with the body shop.
- Total Loss Claim: agreeing with your insurance company on payout amounts is difficult, and lots of paperwork is involved. Getting the right signatures also takes time. This type of claim can take up to a month or more to settle.
- Medical Claim: injury claims take the longest to process. You fill in the initial paperwork, and then the hospital and doctor’s office will coordinate with your personal injury claims adjuster; however, since this process is more hands-off, you cannot guarantee a good result without an attorney.
To find out more about how to make a claim, click here to learn how to settle a personal injury claim or here to learn how to negotiate a claim with an insurance claims adjuster.
What is the Time Limit for Personal Injury Claims?
You must file a lawsuit to stop the clock. The resolution time is extended once the lawsuit is filed, so even though you have up to three years to file your claim, you may take over that time if you’ve filed a lawsuit in time, called tolling the statute of limitations.
Your legal representative can advise you on the best time frame. Seek legal representation as soon as you have an accident, and the legal team can help you through the process, determining if you’ve been injured and what compensation you’ll be eligible for.
If you file your claim too late, the court will reject your claim, even after only a few days.
Always make sure you file in a reasonable time so that you have plenty of time to file a lawsuit against your insurance company, or another party’s if you cannot reach a satisfactory agreement.
Get in touch with Coxwell & Associates, PLLC for a free case consultation:
We have over 36 years of experience winning personal injury lawsuits, so, with us, you’d be in good hands. Call us for a free case consultation, and we’ll be happy to advise you on when to file and help you through the process.
Disclaimer: This blog is intended as general information purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Anyone with a legal problem should consult a lawyer immediately.