How Long After a Car Accident Can I File a Claim?
Were you or a loved one hurt in a car accident in Hawaii? Have you been forced to deal with unexpected medical costs, lost wages, and other burdens after your wreck? If so, you’re probably wondering how you’re going to pay for these sudden expenses and remain financially afloat.
There’s a bright spot during this dark time. You’re likely entitled to compensation if the car accident was caused by someone else. But you only have a limited amount of time to file a claim after a car crash in Hawaii, so it’s important to act quickly.
Far too many deserving people miss out on money because they wait too long to file a claim for their injuries. At Recovery Law Center, we want to make sure that you aren’t one of them. Our Honolulu law firm can help you file a claim and fight for the compensation that you are owed.
At Recovery Law Center, you’re not just another name on a case file. Attorney Glenn Honda provides individualized representation to clients with one goal in mind — to secure compensation that can restore their health, happiness, and wellbeing once more.
Call or contact us to arrange a free consultation.
Statute of Limitations on Car Accidents in Hawaii
The statute of limitations is the time limit you have to file a claim after an accident. These laws typically depend on the type of claim and will vary state by state. In Hawaii, you have up to two years after the date of a car accident to file a claim for your injuries.
If you are the family member of someone killed in a crash on Oahu, you have two years from the date of death to file a wrongful death claim for compensation. In these cases, the filing date may be different than the date of the car accident because some injuries are not immediately fatal.
Once the deadline expires on a personal injury or wrongful death claim, it’s often impossible to get compensation for your injuries. There are some exceptions to the rule. It’s important to contact a knowledgeable Hawaii car accident attorney to learn how the law applies in your case.
Reporting a Car Accident in Hawaii
Many times, the police come to the scene of a car accident if it is serious. When they do, they will file an official accident report. The accident report could become an important part of a future legal claim, so make sure you get a copy of it.
Even if the police do not arrive on the scene, you are required to report an accident to the Hawaii Department of Motor Vehicles within 24 hours if:
- Someone was injured or killed
- The collision causes more than $3,000 in property damage
It will also be important to notify your auto insurance company of the accident. Each policy may have different notification requirements, so it’s important to check yours as soon as possible. When you do make the report, only tell the claims adjuster the basics of the accident, such as where and when it happened. Don’t discuss any injuries or speculate on who was at fault until you’ve spoken with a car accident attorney.
How Will Hawaii’s No-Fault Insurance Laws Affect My Claim?
Hawaii is a no-fault insurance state. All drivers in Hawaii must carry personal injury protection (PIP) coverage of at least $10,000. After a car accident, you will be required to file a claim with your own insurance company to get compensation for economic losses, such as medical costs, lost income, property damage, and other expenses. This rule applies no matter who caused the crash.
No-fault insurance does not provide coverage for noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering or emotional distress. In Hawaii, you can only get compensation for these losses if you file a liability claim or lawsuit against the negligent party. But your accident claim must meet at least one of two conditions:
- The cost of damages must exceed your insurance policy limits.
- The accident caused significant injuries, such as permanent loss of bodily function or disfigurement.
Given these strict requirements, it can be difficult for claimants to know whether their circumstances allow them to pursue a liability claim against the at-fault driver. However, a skilled Honolulu car accident attorney at Recovery Law Center can evaluate your case and help you pursue all possible avenues for maximum compensation.
How Does a Car Accident Settlement Work?
A settlement is an agreed-upon amount of compensation between you and the insurance company (or the insurance company of the other driver if you are able to file a lawsuit). Most car accident cases resolve in a settlement to avoid the costs and risks of trial. However, sometimes a trial is necessary to reach the best results possible.
In reaching a settlement, the insurance company will evaluate several factors to determine what they consider a fair payout. Some of these include:
- The severity of your injuries
- The long-term impact of the injuries on your life
- Your age
- Any pre-existing conditions
- Insurance policy limits
You should know that even though compensation may only come through your no-fault insurer, you will likely get a lowball first offer. That’s because insurers rely on the fact that many people don’t know the true value of their claims. By talking with a lawyer first, you are more likely to obtain the settlement you deserve.
If you are able to file a lawsuit, the court might order the parties to take part in a settlement conference. Settlements can be a good way to get a decent amount of compensation for your injuries without having to go through a lengthy trial.
At other times, a settlement might not get you the full compensation you need. The insurance policy for the person who caused the wreck might have limits on liability coverage that won’t fully cover your losses, or their insurance company might not agree to a fair settlement. A knowledgeable motor vehicle accident lawyer can help determine how much compensation you should ask for and the best way for you to get the money you are owed.
What If I’m Partially at Fault for the Wreck?
If you were partially at fault for the collision, you might only be eligible to receive a limited amount of compensation. Under Hawaii’s comparative negligence law, accident victims can file a claim if they’re less than 50 percent at fault for the car accident, but their compensation will be reduced according to their percentage of the blame.
For example, if you’re owed $100,000, but you were found to be 40 percent responsible for the crash, then the most you can recover would be $60,000.
What If the Insurance Company Is Being Uncooperative?
Serious car accidents can impact you for the rest of your life. They not only destroy property but may result in lifelong disabilities that cause chronic conditions or eventual death. Not all of these impacts are obvious right away, so you may not realize how devastating the accident truly was until many years down the road.
This is one of the most important reasons to hire a car accident attorney. Insurance companies can be quick to settle, which seems good but actually can be detrimental.
For example, someone who emerges from a coma after a traumatic brain injury will have a long road to recovery, with no guarantees about how much function will return. An attorney will want to wait until the victim reaches maximum medical improvement (the most amount of recovery that can be expected given the nature of the injuries) before determining a final settlement demand. Settle too soon, and you may end up with less money than you will truly need moving forward.
Any award after a serious car accident should cover both short-term and long-term costs, such as:
- Medical bills for doctor visits, medications, and surgeries
- Future medical expenses, such as therapies, rehabilitation, or long-term care
- Disability accommodations (such as renovations to your home and modifications to cars) that are necessary due to your injuries
- Lost income
- Reduced ability to earn future income (if you must stop working or can no longer work at the same capacity and earning the same amount of money that you did before the crash)
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium, companionship, or the ability to participate in activities you used to enjoy
- Inability to perform valuable household tasks, such as cleaning and repairs
- Emotional distress
- Property damage
When you work with Recovery Law Center, our car accident attorney can negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf. All you should worry about right now is healing. Leave the rest of the legwork to our dedicated legal team.
When Should I Hire a Car Accident Attorney?
It’s critical to get legal help as soon as possible after a car wreck. Even though there’s a two-year statute of limitations with these accidents, it’s wise to launch an investigation into what happened promptly. That way, valuable evidence won’t be lost or destroyed and witnesses’ memories will still be fresh.
Some car accidents cases will not require a lawyer’s help. For example, if there were no injuries in the crash and the property damage was minor, you can probably negotiate a fair settlement on your own.
Consider hiring a Honolulu car accident attorney if:
- The injuries are serious.
- Someone was killed.
- There are questions over who is at fault.
- Other parties were involved, such as pedestrians or moped riders.
- Your insurance policy limits are too low to cover the costs of your injuries.