Interviewer: Is there a point in time when it is too late for a personal injury claim?

Bill Levinson: No the only difficulty is the insurance companies for the at-fault person generally jump as fast as they can to get to people to settle. They make them some kind of a nominal offer and they do that because some people are so hard pressed for money that they will take it.

They will also try and get statements from the individual looking for something that they can use against that individual in court. I think that obviously the insurance companies try to case as soon as possible and that’s one of the reasons is to control what the client says to insurance companies.

There Is a 3-Year Statute of Limitations to Pursue a Personal Injury Claim

My general advice to clients when they first get the phone call is to hang up on any adjustor that calls from the at-fault party carrier. Generally they have integrity; however, there are ones that are warrant caution. So I’d say a general rule that I tell my clients don’t speak to them. As far as pursuing a case too late, there is a three year statute limitation.

Someone will wait six months or a year before they will speak to an attorney. Those are very tough cases unless it can be demonstrated that they were injured and they’ve been living with the injury.

It Is NOT Advisable to Try to Negotiate with the Insurance Company on Your Own Behalf

There are people that feel that they can negotiate for themselves with the insurance company. There are certainly folks out there that are generally capable but they don’t have the knowledge and they don’t know they don’t have the knowledge. This doesn’t occur until the insurance company is so miserable to them and offers them so little money even after a year or two that they finally out of exasperation will seek out an attorney.

Waiting Six Months to Year to Pursue a Claim Can Create Some Issues

That kind of case is not problematic because the person has usually been treated but the two major difficulties when people wait is one, witnesses maybe gone and that can be a critical factor.

The other thing is and this happens almost as frequently is the defendant maybe gone. Sometimes I have my investigator go find the person. It becomes a real problem because you’ve got three years to serve him. Now there are alternatives to personal service but they are risky.

I can’t remember the last time I served by publication or mail. Even out of state and I have one now where the defendant is in India but I sent a copy of the complaint to a lawyer and I served his brother at his home. Then sent a copy of the declaration of service and the complaint to the insurance company and they hired a lawyer.

They are loathe to be caught without defending an insured according to their contractual responsibility, even if ultimately the insured doesn’t cooperate. They do what’s called a reserve defense and if the insured really disappears then they will only stay in until the statute expires.

They are significant reasons. If you think you have a case then talk to a lawyer. It may turn out you don’t have a viable case but at least you aren’t going to encounter problems that may become insoluble.

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