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FAQ: How to settle a personal injury claim

When do I have to inform people that I intend to file a claim to my accident injuries?

You don’t have to notify anyone responsible for your injuries unless you are filing a claim against an employee or government agency. However, this doesn’t mean that you should wait. You will have a better chance of getting a fair and prompt resolution to your claim if you act quickly — preferably within a few days.

Notifying others does not obligate them to file a claim. It simply preserves your rights. Notifying others promptly that you are filing a claim for injuries will allow you to proceed at your own pace with processing and negotiations with the government agency or insurance company that ultimately takes responsibility.

Is there a deadline to file an accident injury claim against government entities?

You must file a formal claim if your accident was even partially caused or contributed to by any government entity or employee, such as the city, county or state government, federal government, or any other public agency or division (a bus or school district, for instance). Depending on the state, this time period can be between 30 days to one year. You may lose your right to claim compensation if you do not file your claim within the prescribed time or fail to provide required information.

For information on the state’s time limit, contact your county or city attorney to find out. They may not be the ones who defend your claim, but they have a legal obligation of providing correct filing information.

A complete list of deadlines and instructions for filing a claim with the government can be found in How to Win Your Personal Injuries Claim by Joseph Matthews (Nolo).

Is there an expiration date for filing a lawsuit in order to receive compensation for my injuries?

You may need to file a small claims lawsuit in small claims court if you are unable to reach a settlement agreement with your insurance company. You should be aware that there are limitations on the time you can file a lawsuit. You will lose the right to claim compensation in court if you miss the deadline set by your state.

To find out the applicable time limit for your case, check your state’s laws. The article Statutes of Limitations: When is it too late to sue? contains a list of all 50 states’ statutes of limitations.

I was injured in an accident. I would like to file a claim. What should I do first?

You have a lot of options to take care of your rights to compensation in the days and weeks following an accident. There is no one step you have to take in order to get a fair settlement. The more you follow the suggestions below, the easier your claim process will flow.

You should write down everything you can about the accident, your injuries and any other losses (such like wages) that you have suffered.

Note down conversations you have with those involved in the accident/injury claim. For more information on how to make notes, please see the article Take Notions After an Injury or Accident.

Photographs and physical evidence can be used to preserve evidence about who caused the accident. For more information on how to preserve evidence, please see the article Personal injury accidents: How to Preserve Evidence.

Find witnesses to the accident. They might be able help you prove your case. (For more information about how to find witnesses, please see the article Personal Injury Accidents – Preserve Evidence).

Notify everyone you believe might have been responsible for the accident if you intend to file a claim. (For more information, please see the article Personal Injuries Claims: Notifying Responsible Parties.

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