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How Long After a Car Accident Can You Claim an Injury in Washington?

Posted On: May 19, 2023

If you’ve suffered an injury in a motor vehicle accident, knowing applicable state laws, such as how long you have to file a claim, will help you navigate the complicated claims adjustment process. Although the at-fault driver’s insurance company should cover the cost of damages and injuries, they may not because of insufficient or non-existent insurance policy coverage — leaving you liable for the costs associated with the accident.

Read on to learn more about your rights and responsibilities for car accident claims in Washington and how partnering with an experienced attorney for your car accident lawsuit can help you get the compensation you deserve.


What Is the Statute of Limitations for Car Accident Injury Claims in Washington?

In Washington state, the general statute of limitations — or the maximum reporting time to file a legal suit after an event occurs — is three years for claims resulting from car accidents. However, there may be exceptions that shorten or extend the statute of limitations. For example, it may change if the injured party is a minor, the accident happened out of state, or the claim is being made against a government agency.


Woman injured after car accident


How to Determine the Start Date for the Statute of Limitations?

The clock starts ticking on the statute of limitations on the date of the accident. Because of the circumstances that may change the time limit for filing, it’s critical that you initiate the claims process promptly — ideally as close to the date of the accident as possible.

Although you may follow up with your insurance provider alone, hiring a personal injury lawyer to advocate on your behalf can help you get the best outcome possible, relieve your stress, and give you time back to focus on your day-to-day life.


What Is the Timeframe for Seeking Medical Treatment?

The general rule is to seek medical treatment within 72 hours of an accident, although sooner is always better. The longer you wait to seek medical care for injuries, the easier it is for an insurance company to argue that your injuries weren’t that serious or weren’t even related to the car crash. Moreover, you’ll want to have timely documentation of your evaluation by a medical professional for your insurance claim.

Even if you feel only a little sore or think that you don’t need medical attention, it’s best to visit an emergency room or physician to get checked out. Some injuries may take a few days to flare up, or your adrenaline from the accident may mask your true pain.


What You Should Do Before Filing a Car Accident Claim in Washington

As soon as an auto accident occurs, you’ll want to start collecting information about the accident. Since your auto insurance company or personal injury attorney will need documentation to prove your case, consider doing the following from the time of the accident and before you file your car accident claim to help with your case:

  • Call emergency services. Call 911 for help with serious injuries resulting from the accident and get an officer to take a report. More on that below.
  • Collect names and information of participants in the accident. Obtain driver’s license, license plate number, car insurance, and contact information of other drivers involved in the accident. Your insurance company and attorney will need this information to follow up on your behalf.
  • Gather names and contact information of witnesses. Your car accident lawyer can help you follow up for statements from witnesses involved.
  • Take pictures of the car accident. If possible to safely do so, pictures of the accident can help document who was at fault and the circumstances of the crash.
  • Go to the doctor for a medical evaluation. If you may have suffered bodily injury, it’s best to go to an emergency room or personal physician for evaluation. Because the onset of symptoms may be delayed, you’ll want to seek out proactive medical care as soon as possible and have documentation for any personal injuries sustained.
  • File a Motor Vehicle Collision Report. If the collision damage is more than $1,000 for property damage or personal injury, Washington state law requires that you submit a report within four days of the accident. However, if the police show up at the scene of the accident and indicate they will file a police report, you are not required to file one. You can submit or follow up on a report on the Washington State Patrol website.
  • Contact an experienced car accident attorney. Dealing with car insurance companies can be tricky and frustrating. A knowledgeable law firm on your side who will fight for your rights and help you get the best results is invaluable.


What Happens If You Don’t File a Claim Right Away?

Most insurance companies want you to file within 24 to 48 hours of an accident, so it’s essential that you know the specific requirements of your insurance carrier. Unfortunately, you may also fall victim to insurance companies trying to take advantage of the amount of time elapsed to deny a claim. At the end of the day, they are a business looking out for their bottom line.

Filing sooner is always better than later since the claims process can be lengthy and result in delays in getting you compensation for your medical bills and property damage. Plus, the sooner your attorney can collect witness statements, the more likely those witnesses will be available for contact with the memory of the event fresh in their minds.


How a Car Accident Attorney Can Help

An experienced car accident attorney can help you navigate the complex claims processes so that you can focus on your injury recovery. They will do all the difficult work for you — file insurance claims, contact and collect key witness statements, and build a compelling personal injury case — so that you get the compensation you deserve for your:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Medical expenses
  • Time missed from work
  • Property damage

Our team at RHHK has been helping our clients get the compensation they deserve in car accident cases and personal injury lawsuits for more than 60 years. Our compassionate attorneys will fight for your rights and take the frustration out of the process for you.

Call Rush, Hannula, Harkins & Kyler PLLC at 253-242-2606 or contact us here to arrange your free consultation.