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Even a relatively minor car accident can leave you saddled with the physical, psychological, and financial burden of personal injury and property damage. You may be forced to undergo extensive medical treatment, skip days of work, and pay out of pocket for repairs and replacements.
However, if you were not more at fault for the crash than the other driver, you should be able to recover compensation to help offset your bills. This is good news but comes with a big reminder: You have a limited window of time to pursue a first-party or third-party insurance claim, or to initiate a personal injury lawsuit.
The legal clock starts ticking in many ways as soon as you have a car accident. From the moment your accident occurs, you have to follow specific timelines. Some of the biggest deadlines include:
Many accident survivors spend months recovering from their injuries. While this makes sense, waiting to file claims or start cases moves them closer to the personal injury lawsuit deadline (called a “statute of limitations” in legal terminology.)
The problem with waiting too long to start a lawsuit is that it can become easy to miss the deadline. Two years can go by quickly, especially when you are undergoing surgeries, personal therapy, and other medical experiences. Even if you file a lawsuit just one day late, your case will almost certainly be thrown out and you will be left paying for everything on your own.
You have the right to act as your own advocate at all stages in attempting to recover compensation after an accident. For instance, you can negotiate with your insurance carrier as well as the insurance adjuster working on behalf of the at-fault party. You can even submit a lawsuit without a lawyer, although the courts will hold you to the same legal standard as someone who went to law school, passed the Bar exam, and is a working attorney.
The benefit of contacting a lawyer quickly after your accident is that you can get advice right away. Most Delaware car accident lawyers offer free initial consultations. These consultations give you the opportunity to talk about what happened, present evidence such as your medical bills, and ask questions. The lawyer will assess your case and provide feedback.
For example, a lawyer may need to find out if your share of the fault was greater than half. Delaware follows a rule of comparative negligence. Comparative negligence enables you to file third-party insurance claims and begin lawsuits as long as you were 50% or less at fault for the incident. Any settlement money or damages you receive will then be reduced by your percentage of fault.
Consider a situation where you were found to be 20 percent at fault for an accident. You accept a settlement offer from the other driver’s insurance company for $10,000 dollars. The settlement would be reduced by 20 percent to $8,000 dollars accordingly. That way, you get something rather than nothing.
All car accidents are unexpected and traumatic, even the “little” ones. Some cause injuries that seem uncomplicated at first and then end up leading to unexpected long-term problems. Instead of getting confused, angry, and frustrated, remember to do these things at the scene of the accident:
Deadlines help keep the legal system running smoothly. Be sure you understand both your rights and the official timelines as an accident survivor.
Did your life change after being in a car accident in Delaware? Call an experienced Wilmington accident lawyer at Rhoades & Morrow for advice. Call our offices at (302) 834-8484 or fill out our online form. With offices in all three counties of Delaware, we serve clients throughout the state.