For most personal injury claims, such as those arising from car accidents, Virginia gives you two years from the date of your injury to file a lawsuit in civil court. However, certain exceptions can extend the time you have to file, and claims involving injured children may have special considerations. Many other factors can also affect the time you have to file to obtain compensation, and if you miss the deadline, you may have no recourse to get the money you need.
Since most car accident claims in Virginia involve insurance companies, you should understand the difference between filing an injury claim with the at-fault party’s insurance company and filing a lawsuit in court and the processes involved so you know what to expect.
Reach out to an experienced Virginia car accident attorney immediately who can explain your rights and options and file your claim or lawsuit for you so you don’t have to worry about it.
Filing a Claim With the Insurance Company
Following a car accident in Virginia, you need to get insurance information from the at-fault driver and any other parties who bear responsibility for causing the crash. Your attorney will then file a claim with their insurance companies, and the insurer will likely have a deadline for submitting a claim, which could be as short as 30 days from the date of the accident.
Your lawyer will verify the insurance company’s deadline and submit a claim within that time. When they file your claim, your attorney will include a demand letter that specifies your injuries and their associated costs along with a settlement amount the insurance company can pay to avoid going to court.
After receiving your claim, the insurance company will schedule an adjuster to investigate the accident and verify your injuries. In Virginia, insurance companies must respond within 15 days that they have received your claim, but they do not necessarily have to accept or reject your claim during that time. The state allows them another 15 days to notify you if they need more time to investigate and provide the reasons why.
The insurance company will have up to 45 calendar days to notify you whether they have completed their investigation, and they can continue their investigation as long as they provide written notice of their ongoing investigation at 45-day intervals. The state has no laws to dictate how long it can take an insurance company to investigate a claim.
If the insurance company accepts your claim, they will likely respond with a settlement amount lower than what your lawyer demanded. Your attorney will then counteroffer, and the back-and-forth of settlement negotiations can take time.
Once you reach a settlement, you will sign a release promising not to pursue any additional compensation, and all parties will sign the settlement agreement. The agreement will become legally binding, and the insurance company will then initiate the process of sending a check to your attorney. Your attorney should receive a check within 14 to 30 days.
Filing a Lawsuit in Court
If the insurance company denies your claim outright and refuses to settle, or if you cannot settle your claim through negotiations, you will have to take them to court to get the compensation you need. You may also take them to court if they do not send the settlement check within a reasonable time or if they violate any terms of the agreement.
Virginia’s two-year statute of limitations does not mean your claim needs to be settled during that time, it is simply the amount of time you have to file suit in court. Also, filing a lawsuit does not affect the settlement process, and you can continue to negotiate a settlement even after your lawyer files a lawsuit.
Nevertheless, your attorney needs to file suit in court within the two-year period in the event your case must go to trial. Many times, filing a lawsuit will show the insurance company you mean business, which can help expedite the settlement process. At the very least, it will place your case on the court’s docket so you will be ready when and if you must go to trial.
An important note: If your lawyer doesn’t file the initial claim with the insurance company during their specified deadline or if your attorney doesn’t file your lawsuit in civil court before the statute of limitations expires, you will have virtually no other options for obtaining compensation.
Tolling and Other Special Considerations
In some cases, the statute of limitations can toll. Tolling essentially pauses the clock on the time you have to file suit. The most common reasons for tolling include injuries to minor children and the claimant’s mental capacity. For instance, if your injuries left you in a coma, you obviously will cannot work with a lawyer and file a claim or lawsuit.
Another consideration is whether you were driving a company vehicle or performing work-related duties when the wreck occurred. If so, your claim may involve workers’ compensation, which can add complexity and additional requirements to your claim.
Additionally, car accident claims against city, state, or other government entities have their own filing procedures and deadlines. Many times, municipalities have very short deadlines for submitting claims, and the process is usually complicated.
Get an Attorney for Help
The laws and requirements surrounding car accident injury claims are complex, and insurance companies will look for every opportunity to deny your claim and avoid paying. Therefore, you should reach out to an experienced Virginia personal injury attorney immediately who can explain your rights and options and file your claim or lawsuit for you so you don’t have to worry about it.
Along with filing your claim or lawsuit within deadlines and statutes of limitation, an attorney can also gather all the evidence needed to support your claim, and they can fight for you each step of the way to help you get everything you deserve.