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How Can Waiting to File a Personal Injury Claim Hurt?

Personal Injury Claim
Clock Running on Legal Claims

Letting the clock run on a personal injury claim rarely helps.

Statutes of limitations require a case to be filed in a court with proper jurisdiction within a given time after an injury or the claim is barred forever.

Such statutes generally vary from one to three years.

When people wait to think about bringing in an accident attorney (or abogados de accidentes, as they say in Spanish!) to fight for them, the potential for problems increases.

Notice Provisions

Statutes of limitation prevent a claim if the suit is not filed within a certain time period. By contrast, notice provisions require formal written notice in the proper format to the potentially liable party soon after the event causing injury. Failing to provide notice can be fatal to a claim.

Some government entities require notice by certified or even registered mail, depending on the statute, within 30 to 90 days after the accident. Massachusetts law for example requires anyone who slips and falls to provide notice to the property owner giving all of the information referred to in the statute within 30 days if they intend to bring a claim.

Personal Injury Claims Suffer When Evidence is Lost

The job of the police at an accident is not to save all available evidence. They do a police report. In some accident cases you will want skid mark photos. Such marks fade quickly, depending on weather and traffic. Intersections change appearance. Streets are repaved, widened, lines are repainted and many other changes can make it vital to obtain clear professional photos as soon as possible after an accident. In a motor vehicle accident claim, photos of the cars are very important. Once the car is junked, the photo opportunity is gone. Reliance on the insurance company’s photos is unwise for many reasons.

Witnesses Forget, Move or Worse

In cases where liability is disputed, obtaining witness statements can be important. If an insurance company adjuster is running behind your back, asking witnesses suggestive questions and permanently reducing the testimony to signed, sworn statements, you’ve got problems. Also, by waiting, you risk the fact that memory does in fact fade over time. Short term memory is best. Witnesses may move, leaving no new address. Or, an unfortunate reality, they can die.

Multiple Injured Parties and Limited Coverage Equal Danger

When multiple people are injured, if the negligent person has limited insurance coverage, it is “first-come-first-served” regarding available coverage limits. For example, in some jurisdictions, the minimum mandatory bodily injury insurance coverage is $20,000. Surprisingly this minimum still applies in Massachusetts.

Suppose one or two other injured people with fairly serious injuries make claims, depleting that coverage. Procrastinators who do not present a personal injury claim until late in the game in this scenario may find little or nothing left. So better call your trusted personal injury lawyer to fight for your claim before others do.

Memory Fades

You will be required to give at least some form of statement, even if only to your own attorney. Insurance companies want basic information, if not formal statements. If the case can’t settle and must be placed into suit, you will need to answer “interrogatories”, a series of questions sent by the insurance lawyers.

Interrogatories requires answers under pains and penalties of perjury. Depositions, which follow interrogatories, delve into much more detailed facts. A bad answer is: “It was so long ago I can’t remember.” This hurts your credibility. Worse, it devalues the case.

The injured person, the plaintiff in a court case, always bears the burden of proof. The plaintiff with anything less than a clear memory of all pertinent details is a bad witness and risks a bad result.

They say a fine wine improves with the passage of time. But time is no friend to a personal injury claim or most other legal matters.

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Attorney Myers is a member of the American Trial Lawyers Association, Massachusetts Academy of Trial Lawyers, and New Hampshire Trial Lawyers Association. The Law Offices of Andrew D. Myers offer a broad range of legal services in personal injury cases in Massachusetts (MA) and New Hampshire (NH) areas.

The information on this web site is offered for informational purposes only. It is not offered as, and does not constitute, legal advice. Laws vary widely from state to state. You should rely only on the advice given to you during a personal consultation by a local attorney who is thoroughly familiar with state laws and the area of practice in which your concern lies. This web site must be labeled advertisement in some jurisdictions.