If you are injured in any kind of motor vehicle accident, you need to file a claim as quickly as possible. This is because there are legal deadlines you need to meet, else you lose your right to recover money. Further, the longer you wait, the more difficult it may be to win your case.
Reporting the Initial Accident
Before you even start your auto claim, you need to report your accident. This means two things:
- Always call the police from the accident scene itself and report it. You will need a police report to start your claim, and should never agree to keep the accident “between us” or not report it. Additionally, in some cases, if you do not call the police you could even be accused of hit and run.
- Call the insurance company and report your accident the same day as the accident. Insurance companies have their own deadlines, and some may require that you report an accident within as little as 24 hours in order to have a valid claim.
It’s best to call both your own insurance company and the other driver’s insurance company. This is why it’s so important to exchange information at the scene.
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Deadlines for Filing Your Claim
Once the accident is reported, there is still a deadline to actually file a claim with the courts. These deadlines are governed by state and federal laws called statutes of limitations. In Georgia, the deadlines in most auto cases are:
- Up to 2 years from the date of the accident to file claims for injuries (liability) in most cases.
- Up to 4 years from the date of the accident to file claims for damages (car repairs) in most cases.
- Longer if you were younger than 18 when the accident happened. In most cases, the 2- or 4-year deadline will start from the time you turn 18. So if you were 17 when the accident happened, you would have nearly 3 years to file a claim for injuries instead of the usual 2 years.
In Some Cases, You May Have Less Time to File
In some cases, the timelines may be much shorter:
- Only 6 months from the date of the accident if it involved a city or county vehicle, such as a Park Service truck.
- Only 1 year from the date of the accident if it involved a state vehicle, such as a state trooper squad car.
Additionally, special rules apply if a federal government vehicle was applied—you have to go through an administrative claim process first (with a 2-year deadline in most cases) and then have a short 6-month deadline to actually file in court.
You do not have to be the one driving the government vehicle for these special timelines to take effect. If you are a private citizen driving your own car, and get in a fender bender caused by a government vehicle, you still have to follow the shorter deadlines.
Using the Timeline Wisely
Just because you may have up to 2 years to file your case does not mean it’s a good idea to wait that long. Typically, the sooner you file your claim the stronger it is. This is for several reasons:
- Filing right away shows that you took your injury seriously from the start; insurers can’t claim you are “making up” your injury.
- If you wait, the insurance company may claim you made your injury worse by putting off treatment.
- The longer you wait, the harder it is to find witnesses and the less useful those witnesses are.
- Police officers forget details as time goes by.
How Soon After Your Accident Should You Contact an Attorney?
We urge all car accident victims to look into the claim process as soon as possible. Ideally, you should speak to a lawyer within just 1 week of your accident. Your lawyer can help you decide if you have a case and what the right next steps are.
For a free legal consultation, call 404-400-4000
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Have you been injured? John Foy & Associates offers a free consultation with some of the most experienced and respected personal injury lawyers in Georgia. Fill out the form to your right or call us at 404-400-4000 today.