How Long After a Car Accident Can You Claim an Injury?

Victims typically have two years from the date of the accident to file a car accident lawsuit or claim for their injuries. Illinois is on the list of “fault” states. When a car accident is caused by the negligence of another driver, victims may seek compensation against that party for any financial and emotional costs of the injuries they sustained. This process may be completed through the state’s civil court system, or through a third party insurance claim. However, a timeline for filing a personal injury claim exists. This deadline is also referred to as a statute of limitations.

Deadlines After a Car Accident in Illinois

A personal injury lawsuit must be filed within two years following a car accident. If accident victims miss the state’s statute of limitations, they will likely forfeit their ability to sue the at-fault party.

Accident claims have four primary deadlines. These deadlines are for submitting a sworn proof of loss, filing a personal injury claim, filing a property damage-only claim, and filing a claim for wrongful death. There are also a few other deadlines to acknowledge, such as those for claims against the government, workers’ compensation claims, and insurance claims. Exceptions to the personal injury statute of limitations involving accidents are present.

Submitting a Sworn Proof of Loss

If an accident victim’s claim is being filed to his or her own insurance company, he or she will need to comply with the terms of his or her policy. The Illinois Department of Insurance (DOI), notes that the majority of insurance policies will mandate that a victim submits a sworn proof of loss within 91 days. A sworn proof of loss is a statement that will provide the day the loss happened, how the loss took place, and why the vehicle was being used. Failing to submit a sworn proof of loss on time may lead to the car accident claim being dismissed.

Personal Injury Claims

Personal injury claims in Illinois have a statute of limitations of two years. The deadline starts on the date of the accident. This deadline applies regardless of whose insurance company a victim is negotiating with. The statute of limitations will apply unless an exception is present.

Property Damage-Only Claims

Property damage claims have a different statute of limitations than other claims. The statute of limitations for filing a property-damage-only claim is set to five years. Five years may seem like plenty of time, but to ensure proper coverage, the claim should be made as soon as possible. The information in the claim should include any repair or replacement costs of the victim’s vehicle.

Wrongful Death Claims

Should a family member lose a loved one due to a fatal car accident, the victim’s family must meet the wrongful death statute of limitations. Most statutes of limitations for wrongful death claims are two years from the date of death. If the victim died at the scene of the accident, the claim must be filed within two years of the date of the accident. If a victim survived the car accident, but later passed due to related injuries, the deadline to file is extended. A Chicago car accident lawyer can help families recover costs and pursue closure.

Other Claim Deadlines

Various other deadlines that may affect accident victims include the time limit to file an insurance claim, deadlines for claims against the government, and workers’ compensation claim deadlines. Most insurance companies require the accident victim to report the accident within 24 to 48 hours. Each claim is expected to be filed within the most “reasonable amount of time” post-accident, which may be a specific deadline depending on the insurance company. Any claims against the government may need to be filed by the accident victim within one year. If a victim was injured while working, employers typically need to be notified of the accident within 45 days. This allows the victim to stay eligible for any workers’ compensation benefits.

Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations

One exception to the statute of limitations is granted to claimants who were minors or legally incapacitated when the car accident occurred. Individuals under the age of 18 are not allowed to file lawsuits. If a claim is filed involving minors, it must be completed by the child’s parent or guardian within two years of the accident or filed two years from the child’s eighteenth birthday. Victims incapacitated due to their injuries are allowed to file their claim within two years of the day they recover legal competence.

Failing to present a prompt and proper claim may lead the insurance company to doubt the extent of a victim’s injuries or losses. Insurance companies are aware that they may not be required to pay anything should a lawsuit be filed outside the statute of limitations.

How to Claim Car Accident Injuries After a Crash

Filing car accident insurance claims can be a difficult process. Pressure is added with so many individuals being entangled in the process. It’s important for car accident victims to understand the way car insurance claims are navigated and for them to be prepared.

You Notify the Insurance Company and Retain a Lawyer

Once the dust has settled from your accident, you must contact the applicable insurance companies to report your crash. Then, retain a car accident lawyer to represent your interests and direct communication with the insurance company through him or her.

Investigations Commence

Why and how do car insurance companies investigate claims in the first place? A victim’s car insurance claim will be investigated for several reasons. These factors include preventing potential insurance fraud, determining the extent of injuries or damages suffered, determining the value of claims, and determining liability.

Insurance companies require investigations to determine the extent of damages or any injuries victims have suffered. These investigations are crucial to determine the scope of the injuries sustained. During the lengthy investigation process, essential evidence is acquired from multiple sources to provide an estimate of injuries and any losses.

To protect itself from any possible fraudulent activity, an insurance company will send an insurance adjuster to investigate any claims. An insurance adjuster’s job is to confirm that all reported injuries and damages to property are valid.

While the insurance investigation is proceeding, your car accident lawyer will investigate the facts of your case to determine a fair damages award. This calculation will help you determine what to request in your demand letter.

Negotiations Proceed

Once the evidence has been gathered, the insurance company will begin establishing how much an accident victim’s claim is worth. This process will coincide with the investigators determining the extent of any damages or injuries. The adjusters and investigators work for the insurance company, not the victim. This means the investigators will work in the best interest of the insurance company, with the aim of saving them money. Because of this, the accident settlement package that is offered first can be on the lower end.

Your attorney understands the true cost of your car accident injuries. He or she will negotiate directly with the insurance company to secure you a fair settlement. If negotiations fail, your claim may proceed to trial and become a lawsuit.

What Compensation Can You Recover After an Accident?

Economic and non-economic damages are the two main types of compensation a car accident victim can recover in a lawsuit.

Economic damages are determined by a car accident’s direct financial costs. The clear documentation provided makes them easier to value than non-economic damages. Economic damages include any loss of earning potential, lost wages or business opportunities, medical bills, and property damage. A deceased victim’s family may include any burial costs, funeral expenses, loss of inheritance, and other corresponding damages.

Non-economic damages are hard to quantify and include losses that are indirect. Many professionals are required to provide their financial opinions. The majority of the decision is made based on the victim’s pain and suffering. Pain and suffering are defined as any physical or emotional discomfort experienced by the victim due to another individual’s deliberate or negligent actions. Non-economic losses include:

  • Disfigurement
  •  Emotional anguish
  • Loss of companionship or the loss of enjoyment of life
  •  Pain and suffering
  • Physical impairment
  • Temporary or permanent disability

Common Insurance Company Tactics That Can Hurt Your Car Accident Injury Claim

All drivers need to be aware of car accident insurance claims dos and don’ts. This starts with understanding why car accident victims should let a lawyer handle all communications with insurance adjusters or investigators.

It is common for the at-fault party’s insurance company to contact victims a short time after the accident has occurred. The primary job of insurance adjusters is to save the insurance company they work for money. The best way to save the company money is to reduce or eliminate car accident claims. A car accident lawyer can help you avoid falling prey to these bad faith tactics and secure your right to compensation.

Chicago personal injury and workers’ compensation attorney Howard Ankin has a passion for justice and a relentless commitment to defending injured victims throughout the Chicagoland area. With decades of experience achieving justice on behalf of the people of Chicago, Howard has earned a reputation as a proven leader in and out of the courtroom. Respected by peers and clients alike, Howard’s multifaceted approach to the law and empathetic nature have secured him a spot as an influential figure in the Illinois legal system.

Years of Experience: More than 30 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: Illinois State Bar Association, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, U.S. District Court, Central District of Illinois
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