When to File an Auto Insurance Claim After a Car Accident

From fender-benders to fatal car crashes, every collision can raise questions about whether, and when to file an auto insurance claim after a car accident. Find out how your insurance policy and state statutes of limitations can affect your claim to no-fault benefits, and what happens if you wait too long.

The days immediately following a car accident are filled with questions, and demands on your time. You need to get the vehicle repaired or replaced, see your doctors, and in more serious injury cases, go through many tests, scans, and even surgeries. Filing paperwork with your auto insurance company may not seem like a top priority. But ignoring when to file an auto insurance claim after a car accident can have big financial consequences for you and your family.

Insurance Policies Require Notice Right Away After a Car Accident

For Michigan drivers, the ticking clock starts immediately after a car accident. Most large insurance providers in the state have included mandatory notice of claim provisions into their policy contracts. These provisions are often buried in the small print of a policy sent after the application is signed and the insurance premium is paid. They require insured motorists to file a "notice of claim" within days of a car accident if they believe they are, or even could be, entitled to any no-fault benefits as a result of the crash.

This mandatory notice of claim requirement can catch drivers unaware and cause them to lose access to benefits they need to pay for medical expenses, lost wages, attendant care, and replacement services after a crash. Particularly if a person was a passenger in an accident or was not driving his or her own vehicle, the legal complexities of the Michigan No-Fault Act can cause an injured motorist to miss this filing deadline, or to file his or her notice of claim with the wrong insurance provider. That, in turn, can result in a harder fight to get your expenses paid after a car accident.

When to File an Auto Insurance Claim

The Notice of Claim only lets an auto insurance provider know there is going to be be a claim for no-fault benefits. It does not ask the company to pay for anything. To do that, you or your personal injury attorney will need to file a claim for no-fault benefits within one year after the expense is incurred.

This is a firm deadline. For example, if you had surgery on October 14, 2017, you only have until October 14, 2018 to file the claim for no-fault benefits to get the insurance company to pay for your medical and hospital expenses. If you wait until October 15, it will be too late and your claim will be denied automatically.

Just like with the Notice of Claim, the Auto Insurance Claim needs to be filed with the correct auto insurance provider on time. Each company has its own process, and its own forms, that need to be completed. Where there is a question about which company will cover the costs, your personal injury attorney may file more than one auto insurance claim to ensure you meet the deadline.

Don't Sign More Than You Have To

When injured motorists try to file their auto insurance claims themselves it can sometimes cost them in the long run. The Michigan No-Fault Act requires insurance companies to pay for any covered expenses resulting from a motor vehicle accident, even if they are discovered years later. However, many insurance companies will try to get you to make a statement or sign a waiver saying that you have fully disclosed all injuries shortly after the claim is filed.

Before you sign anything from the insurance company, make sure to have an experienced personal injury attorney review the document. If you sign one of these waivers without knowing it, it could cut you off from no-fault benefits when complications develop from concussions, whiplash, or spinal injuries in the months or even years after the car crash.

When to File a No-Fault Claim Denial Lawsuit

Increasingly, auto insurance providers are denying valid no-fault claims out of hand, forcing the matter into court. They may say they will not pay you no-fault benefits because:

  • You filed the claim with the wrong insurance provider
  • Your policy was void based on misstatements in the application process
  • Your injuries aren't related to the car accident or existed prior to the crash
  • Your medical expenses are not reasonable and necessary to treat your injuries
  • Any of several other insurance defenses exist that mean they do not have to pay

A no-fault claim denial doesn't mean you can't receive benefits. It just means you will need to fight for them in court. Insurance companies default to "no" whenever there is a question about whether they are legally required to pay benefits. Then it is up to you and your personal injury attorney to file a no-fault claim denial lawsuit in state court.

Medical Expenses and the One Year Back Rule

A lawsuit to recover no-fault benefits must be filed within one year of when that expense came due. You will not be awarded damages for anything further than "one year back" from the date your complaint is filed. Again, this is a hard deadline. If you file even one day late it could mean that expensive surgery or hospital visit won't be covered.

This applies to bills submitted directly by your medical providers as well. While the rules about how medical providers can recover no-fault benefits have changed recently, the "one-year back" rule remains the same. If your medical providers wait too long to send their bills to the insurance company, you will only be able to receive benefits for one year back from when they sent the bills to the insurance provider. That could mean they have to come after you for payment later on.

Notice, the statute of limitations is the same as the deadline for filing your insurance claim. If you wait until the last minute to tell your insurance company you need to receive benefits, it could delay long enough in responding to make you miss the "statute of limitations" deadline and leave you without access to the courts to fight for your right to benefits.

The tight deadlines on the Notice of Claim, the insurance application for no-fault benefits, and the claim denial lawsuit statute of limitations make it essential that you talk to a personal injury attorney as soon as possible after a serious injury accident.

At Sachs Waldman, our experienced personal injury attorneys are here to help you meet your deadlines. After your car accident we will help you file the necessary notices and claims, and review anything you receive from the insurance provider. We will help you protect your right to claims, and take the insurance company to court if they wrongfully deny your claim. If you have been seriously injured in a motor vehicle accidentcontact our Detroit personal injury law office at 1-800-638-6722.

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