Surprisingly, not every car accident victim immediately files for compensation. There are multiple reasons why some people may wait, such as not realizing the extent of their injuries or property damage. Sometimes, their injuries are too severe for them to consider filing a claim. While there are exceptions to the statute of limitations on some personal injury claims, it doesn’t apply to all. The time limit on car accident claims is usually fairly rigid and you don’t want to miss any deadlines.
Statute of Limitations for Car Accident Claims in Florida
Every state has a statute of limitations for car accident and personal injury claims. The deadline for filing a claim can run anywhere from two years to five years and possibly longer. The Florida statute of limitations is four years from the date of the accident. So, what happens if you miss the four-year filing deadline? There’s a good chance you can’t file a claim for damages. There are exceptions to the statute. For example, if you’re under the age of 18 at the time of the accident the statute doesn’t apply. However, it does kick in on your 18th birthday. If your injuries are too severe for you to participate in your case, the statute may also be extended. For example, you’re in a coma for several months. However, even if your injuries are catastrophic it’s never a good idea to put off filing a personal injury claim. Witnesses can move away and even forget relevant details about the accident. Records and other types of supporting evidence can also get lost over the years.
Don’t Forget About Other Filing Deadlines
Along with the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury claim, there’s also the PIP deadline. PIP (personal injury protection) insurance also has filing deadlines. These are other deadlines you don’t want to ignore. PIP insurance is a legal requirement for all Florida drivers. You must carry at least $10,000 in personal injury protection insurance. Under PIP insurance laws, you must seek medical treatment within two weeks (14 days) of the car accident. If you ignore this deadline, it can negatively affect your personal injury case. For example, your claim for medical expenses may be automatically denied by the insurance provider. There really aren’t any exceptions to this Florida law.
How to Know if You Have a Personal Injury Claim
Just being in a car accident doesn’t automatically entitle you to filing a personal injury claim. If your vehicle only sustains damage and you’re uninjured, you can only seek compensation for property damage. This can include vehicle repairs or replacement. Florida is a no-fault state and this can complicate your claim. In a no-fault state, you file a claim with your insurance carrier and let them work out the details with the other driver/s insurance provider. To meet Florida’s requirements for a personal injury claim, you must be able to show you suffered severe injuries as a direct result of the accident.
So, what qualifies as a serious injury?
- The permanent loss of a body function. For example, the loss of an arm or leg.
- A permanent injury. Paralysis is considered a permanent injury.
- Severe and/or permanent scarring or disfigurement
Death is also considered a severe injury. If the vehicle wreck results in a fatality, the victim’s family may be eligible for a wrongful death lawsuit.
What to Do After a Vehicle Accident
There are a few steps you can take to help protect the integrity of your personal injury case. However, if your injuries are too severe, don’t worry about the details. Just concentrate on your recovery and let your attorney handle your car accident case. Something you also want to do after an accident is to remain calm. Yes, being in a vehicle wreck is frightening and even traumatic, but panicking isn’t going to help yourself or anyone else involved in the accident. Take a deep breath and assess yourself for injuries, then follow a few simple steps:
- Check your passengers and those in the other involved vehicles for injuries. The more information you can provide the 911 operator, the better equipped the first responders will be. For example, you may not have any injuries but this may not be true for the other driver. Being able to let the emergency operator know there are injuries will help ensure medical personnel arrive on the accident scene with the police.
- While the accident is still fresh in your mind, jot down the events leading up to the accident. Maybe the other vehicle swerved into your car or braked suddenly for no apparent reason. If you’re able, take some pictures of any damage to your vehicle. Don’t worry about photographing other vehicles involved in the accident. Their insurance carriers will take care of this. Besides, you don’t want to make a stressful situation worse by pestering the other driver for pictures.
- If there are any witnesses, go ahead and get their contact information. Don’t take their statements or discuss the accident. The insurance company can use your words against you to try and limit your settlement amount.
If you don’t need a ride to the hospital, don’t forget to still seek immediate medical attention. Even if it’s only a check-up by your family physician, under PIP law you only have two weeks to see a medical professional. Keep all of your medical records, including receipts for prescriptions as you’ll need to submit the documentation to your insurance provider. If you can’t account for all of your expenses, you may not be able to claim these costs in your personal injury case. Get a copy of the police report. This document can help support your personal injury claim. You can get a copy of the report online or at the local police department.
Don’t Miss the Deadline for Your Personal Injury Case
It’s crucial to act promptly when considering filing a personal injury claim following an auto accident, especially given the time-sensitive nature of such legal matters. In the context of Florida law, you have a four-year window to file a claim, but there’s an additional requirement to see a physician within two weeks of the accident to qualify for Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits. Delaying either of these steps can jeopardize your ability to receive compensation. Therefore, if you’re involved in a car crash, reaching out to an accident attorney as soon as possible is vital.