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How Long After a Car Accident Can You Claim Injury?

Washington places a time limit on car accident victims for filing a lawsuit for personal injury. If you’ve been injured in a car accident in Seattle or elsewhere in Washington, you have 3 years to file a lawsuit. However, a car accident claim and a lawsuit are two different things:

  • Filing a claim means you’re asking the insurance company of the at-fault driver to pay for damages according to the terms of the driver’s contract
  • Filing a lawsuit means you’re taking the at-fault driver’s insurance company to court in order to compel them to pay if they’ve denied the claim or offered an inadequate settlement.

Because the process of investigating an accident, proving liability, and negotiating with insurance companies can take time, and may eventually proceed to a lawsuit if the company does not offer an ample settlement, it’s best to begin this process early to avoid missing the deadline for filing a lawsuit if it becomes necessary.

How Long After a Car Accident Can You Claim Injury?

When is the Right Time to Begin Your Insurance Claim?

Insurance companies prioritize their profits over payouts. Their business depends on taking in more money in premium payments than they pay out each month on claims. One tactic commonly used by insurance companies use to minimize a payout is to have a concerned-sounding representative contact you soon after your accident to offer a settlement. Typically, this is an undervalued settlement they hope you’ll accept before you could possibly know how costly your injury will become by the time you’ve undergone medical treatment, follow-ups, and recovery time. They do this in exchange for your signature signing away your right to file a lawsuit. Don’t make this mistake.

Though you must promptly report your accident to your insurance company, it’s best to evaluate the total cost of your injury, including any scheduled procedures and lost wages. However, don’t wait so long that you don’t have ample time to pursue a settlement and file a lawsuit if necessary before the 3-year statute of limitations expires.

How Long Does the Claims Process Take After an Accident?

An experienced Seattle car accident attorney will thoroughly investigate your claim in a timely manner, while the evidence in the case is still available. For instance, sometimes surveillance cameras or traffic cameras capture an accident on video but may end up erased before you can review them if you don’t take prompt action after an accident. According to Washington’s fault-based insurance law, an accident victim must prove liability on the part of the at-fault driver. This requires an investigation and evidence-gathering to prove the legal points of liability which include showing:

  • That the party at fault owed a duty of care to take reasonable precautions to keep you and other drivers safe on the road by following the traffic laws and avoiding distractions
  • That the at-fault driver breached that duty by driving negligently or recklessly
  • That the negligent or reckless act directly caused your injury
  • That you’ve suffered damages from the injury, including economic damages as well as physical injuries

Once your attorney shows fault on the part of the other driver, they can craft a compelling case for you to fully recover your damages.

What Damages Can I Recover After a Car Accident Claim?

An accident with injuries is not only traumatic and painful, but it can leave you in financial distress. Medical bills quickly mount while you may be unable to return to work as you undergo medical treatments. When you promptly file a claim and clearly show liability on the part of the at-fault driver, you can recover compensation for the following damages:

  • Medical expenses and future medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Diminished earning capacity if you’ve sustained debilitating injuries
  • Pain and suffering
  • Any other appropriate non-economic damages like disfigurement, loss of limb, or loss of enjoyment of life

A diligent, timely car accident claim is the best way to ensure your economic recovery after an accident while you focus on your physical recovery.

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