In Washington, your personal injury claim following a car accident is only valid within three years of the accident. Three years is thus the statute of limitations to file a personal injury or car accident claim in the state. If you exceed this deadline, your claim will not be considered and the at-fault party’s insurance will not be obliged to offer you compensation for your injuries.
The first thing to do if you have been involved in an accident is to hire a Kent WA car accident lawyer and explain the incident to them. They will notify the at-fault party’s insurance company of the accident through a formal letter containing basic details of the collision. Of course you can do this yourself but the presence of a lawyer is very important in case you are dealing with malicious insurance representatives who may plan to exploit your lack of knowledge of the law.
Note that your claim may not always be received positively by the insurance. In cases where the accident is devoid of clear facts, the insurance may choose to deny your claim or try to force the blame on you. It is easy to fall for this given most insurance adjusters and negotiators are individuals with extensive knowledge of the law.
The reason you need a lawyer is that they are not easily tricked and will dig into the case for the tiniest of details to back your claim and convince the insurance company that their client was at fault for the accident that caused your injuries. The three-year statute of limitations should be enough to facilitate investigations, preparation of a claims and possible appeals, and eventually filing of a lawsuit, if the case goes there.
Why you should pursue your claim early despite the three-year window
The statute of limitations for car accident claims does not encompass your dealings with the insurance company. The court won’t recognize the fact that you filed a claim with the at-fault party’s insurance if you file a lawsuit outside the three years, whether or not there was malice in the way the insurance handled your case.
On the upside, Washington law allows you to file a lawsuit even without contacting the insurance company about the accident. But even if you resort to this, there are a multitude of factors that may significantly “shorten” the three years. Here are some of the things your attorney needs to build a strong case for you:
- Investigate the accident to ascertain that the other driver truly caused the accident
- Find out if there are other potentially liable parties
- Work with accident reconstruction experts to determine how the accident happened
- Obtain a police report of the accident together with important details such as road and weather conditions at the time of the accident.
All these actions require time. If you are injured, treatment and a doctor report will be needed as well, so you need to find a way to fix all these goings-on in the three-year timeframe.