Personal Injury FAQs
been hurt in an accident and I want to file a claim for
my injuries. What's the first thing I should do?
are a number of things you can do in the first few days
and weeks after an accident to protect your right to compensation
should you want to file an injury claim. Except for filing
a formal claim against a government entity, there's no
single step that you absolutely must take to obtain a
fair settlement, and no set order in which you must proceed.
However, the more of the following suggestions you can
follow, the more smoothly your claim process is likely
down as much as you can about the accident itself, your
injuries, and any other losses (such as wages) you've
suffered as a result of the accident.
Make notes of conversations that you have with people
involved in the accident or the injury claim. (For more
details on what notes to take, see Make Notes About Your
Accident and Injuries.)
Preserve evidence of who caused the accident and what
damage was done by collecting physical evidence and taking
photographs. (For tips on what evidence to collect, see
Preserve Evidence of Fault and Damages.)
Locate people who witnessed the accident and who might
be able to help you prove your case (for information on
how to locate witnesses, see Preserve Evidence of Fault
and Damages), and
Notify anyone you think might be responsible for the accident
of your intention to file a claim for your injuries. (For
more information, see Notify People Who May Be Responsible
for Your Injuries.)
How soon do I need to notify people about my intention
to file a claim for my accident injuries?
you're filing a claim against a government agency or employee,
you need not notify the people you think are responsible
for your injuries within a set number of days after an
accident. But that doesn't mean you should drag your feet.
On the contrary, acting right away -- within a few days,
if possible -- will increase your chances of receiving
a quick and fair resolution to your claim.
notice doesn't obligate you to file a claim; it simply
preserves your rights and prevents others from later saying
that your claim is unfair because you waited too long
to tell them about your injuries. If you promptly notify
others that you intend to file a claim for your injuries,
you can then move at your own pace in processing and negotiating
the claim with the insurance company or government agency
that winds up taking responsibility.
more information, including whom to notify and how to
give notice, see Notify People Who May Be Responsible
for Your Injuries.
is the deadline for filing an accident injury claim against
a government entity?
your accident might have been even partially caused by
a government entity or employee -- the city, county, state,
or federal government, or any public agency or division
(a city bus or a school district, for example) -- you
must file a formal claim within a short time after your
accident. This period of time usually ranges between 30
days and one year, depending on your state. If you fail
to file a claim within the time limit, or fail to include
required information in your claim, you may forever lose
your right to collect compensation.
find the time limit for your state, call your city or
county attorney's office and ask. Although they may be
the ones defending against your claim if you file it,
they are under a legal obligation to give you correct
filing information. You can also find a complete list
of time limits, plus instructions on how to file a government
claim, in How to Win Your Personal Injury Claim, by Joseph
there a deadline for filing a lawsuit to recover compensation
for my injuries?
you have no success reaching a settlement with an insurance
company, you may be forced to consider bringing a lawsuit
in small claims or other court. But you must be aware
of the laws, called "statutes of limitations,"
that limit the time in which you have to file. If you
miss your state's deadline, you will lose your right to
recover compensation in court, and will be forced to abandon
your claim altogether.
your state's laws to find the time limit that applies
to your case. You can find a list of the statutes of limitations
for all 50 states in Statutes of Limitations: Is Your