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How long do I have to file a motor vehicle accident claim?

The experience of being involved in a motor vehicle accident can be truly disorienting. Whether you have suffered an injury, property damage or both of these kinds of harm, the experience of being “fine” one moment and becoming the victim of an accident in the next can cause mental and emotional whiplash. As a result of the disorienting nature of accidents, days or even weeks can go by before you think to file an accident claim.

It is important to understand that virtually every kind of civil legal claim is subject to something called a statute of limitations. This concept limits the amount of time that someone can file a legal claim after a relevant experience occurs. In general, states govern the statutes of limitations regarding most accident claims. As a result, the amount of time you will have to file a car or truck accident claim will depend on the laws of your state. Some states only allow individuals one year to file accident claims, while others may allow up to six years.

It is also important to note that the statutes of limitations that your claim may be governed by will vary if you end up needing to file a claim against a government or a government employee. For example, if you were hit by a mail truck driven by the United States Postal Service, your claim may be subject to a different time constraint than it would be if you were hit by your neighbor’s SUV.

It is generally best to consult a local attorney about your legal options as soon as possible after an accident has occurred. The longer that you wait, the more likely it becomes that insurance claims and other factors may impact your case in ways that can be both complex and frustrating.

Source: Findlaw Injured, “Is It Too Late to File My Car Accident Claim?” Christopher Coble, April 7, 2015


For me, I like to file as soon as possible. If I had a wreck in the morning going to work, I am calling up my insurance company at lunch time or even at the wreck. The soon you get going the better in my opinion. Cold cases are much harder to solve. Thanks for posting this great info for everyone!

Thank you for explaining and sharing the details for car accident claims and statutes of limitations. I think it's helpful to understand this process in case I ever find myself in this situation. That way I won't have to wonder what I need to do. Thanks for sharing!

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