Is there a time limit on car accident settlements?
April 15th, 2010, I was rear-ended at a stop sign in Louisiana. The car was totaled. I've had two other car accidents over six years ago that I still deal with injuries from. I believe the recent accident has aggravated my pre-existing injuries. Since then, I have been dealing with the insurance company and they have just now given me an offer. I did not accept the offer because it was so low.
I was wondering if I could still pursue a claim? I have not contacted a lawyer up to this point. I wanted to take something to the insurance company's lawyer but now I'm afraid I may only get what little they're offering because of how long they took to make me an offer. Any help and information you can provide would be a great help, thank you.
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ANSWER for "Is there a time limit on car accident settlements?":
Josh (Leesville, LA):
In Louisiana, the time period (or “Statute of Limitations” period) within which you must either settle your claim or file suit is 2 years from the date of the injury for which you are seeking compensation. You mentioned taking “something to the insurance company’s lawyer”. In all the states we cover we have yet to come across an example of an insurance company’s attorneys negotiating with an injured party.
The only time the insurance company’s attorneys enter a case is when the insurance company’s representative, called their Claims Adjuster, has notified her supervisor the negotiations have come to an end and the injured party has either filed suit or has indicated she is finished negotiating and intends to file suit.
Once the Adjuster is “put on notice” by the injured party of the threat of, or actual filing of suit, the case is immediately turned over to the insurance company’s legal department, or in some cases to attorneys who are hired by the insurance company on a case by case basis.
You can be sure the attorneys will not negotiate with you until, and unless you file suit. When that happens there will be no negotiating, at least until the pre-trial legal motions, depositions, and interrogatories have run their course.
You will have to respond to these legal filings appropriately and timely. If you do not the insurance company's attorneys will file for a Summary Judgment and the case will in all likelihood be dismissed against you with prejudice. (“With Prejudice” means the court will order the case can not be refilled at any time.)
At this point in the negotiations you should be aware if you are not satisfied with the offer of settlement the insurance company makes, your only choice will be to file suit and enter the “Big leagues” of lawyers, courtrooms, judges, and juries. That is not a place you want to be if you are not yourself a skilled Personal Injury Attorney.
In summary, we suggest you “give it your best shot” negotiating a settlement now with the Claims Adjuster, or consider retaining a Personal Injury Attorney. You may know most reputable personal Injury Attorneys will not charge a prospective client any legal fee for an initial office consultation.
The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.
Best of luck,
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