Understanding the Statute of Limitations in Auto Accident Claims
The first few days after an auto accident can be disorienting and, especially if you or a loved one were seriously injured, full of demands and decisions and difficult emotions. With everything going on, the question of whether to file a lawsuit may get pushed to the back of your mind and subsequently delayed.
However, a lawsuit should not be a secondary consideration for accident victims. For many, it is a necessary tool in settlement negotiations, and some car accident claims do end up in court when an insurer refuses to play fair. Here's what you should know about the time limit for filing a suit after an auto accident and how it ties into the rest of your claim.
The Rhode Island Personal Injury Statute of Limitations
Rhode Island has a fairly generous statute of limitations for injury claims, allowing victims 3 years after the date of the incident to file a case in court. In wrongful death cases, the family has 3 years after the date of their loved one's death to file a claim. When it comes to property damage, such as damage to your car, you have 10 years to file—however, in most car accident cases, there is no reason to file for property damage but not personal injury.
Does the Statute of Limitations Apply to an Insurance Claim?
Insurance is a for-profit industry rather than a public institution of justice, so it is not bound by the statute of limitations. Indeed, waiting 3 years to report your accident might make it hard to argue you suffered serious losses. Further, if the at-fault driver has done their duty and let their insurer know what happened, you can expect an insurance adjuster to reach out to you if you do not call them within a few days of the accident.
Insurance companies tend to act quickly to resolve claims after accidents, in part because the longer a victim has, the more likely they are to uncover less-obvious ongoing expenses their insurance adjuster did not mention and does not want to pay for. While we don't recommend you drag your feet on filing a claim, because the insurance company may have its own time limit, we also urge you to not rush into a settlement agreement. The first offer an insurance agent makes is almost guaranteed to be too low.
How an Insurance Claim Timeline Will Affect an Injury Lawsuit
Insurance adjusters are savvy when it comes to saving money for their employers. If you refuse to go along with their initial rushed offer, they may take steps to delay your claim, essentially trying to run out the statute of limitations on legal action. While this is, unfortunately, allowed, there is a solution: Hire an experienced car accident attorney to take over negotiations.
Sometimes, just having a known law firm like Karns & Kerrison on the case will convince insurance adjusters to start taking your case seriously. If our presence alone is not enough to make a difference, we do everything we can to move a client's case along, including making and taking calls, making sure paperwork is submitted in a timely manner and to the company's specifications, and refusing to accept excuses.
We also start preparing our clients' cases for trial long before the statute of limitations will toll. We do not let an insurance company's attempts to postpone a settlement interfere with a client's ability to file their case. The threat of a trial is a good incentive to negotiators who know they're being unfair or are not sure their case would win in front of a jury.
The Guidance You Need After a Serious Car Accident
Dealing with insurance adjusters can be a headache, and if you're worried you're not being treated fairly, it may be time to bring in a third party to fight for you. Our team at Karns & Kerrison has helped clients recover over $250 million in settlements and verdicts. No matter the details of your accident, you do have the right to file for compensation if another party was at fault. We're here to help you understand your legal rights and strategize on how to maximize your compensation.
Call (888) 281-3100 for a free consultation with one of our car accident attorneys. We have over 85 years of combined experience.