In speaking with the insurance company for the at-fault driver after being involved in a motor vehicle accident, a person is often led to believe that the situation is time sensitive. Insurance adjusters, knowing they have the upper hand in dealing with an unrepresented person, all too often convince people to settle their claims for much less than they might actually be worth. Time and time again, clients state that the insurance adjuster told them that it would be in their best interest to settle quickly, or that “this is the best they can do.” The reality is that the insurance company does not have your best interest in mind. They simply have one goal: to convince you to settle as quickly as possible for as little as possible.
The amount of time a person has to resolve their claim is called a statute of limitations. A statute of limitations is a type of law that restricts the time within which legal proceedings may be brought. Under Washington law, RCW 4.16.080 sets forth the statute of limitations for personal injury matters. It states that “an action for taking, detaining, or injuring personal property, including an action for specific recovery thereof, or for any injury to the person or rights of another” must be commenced within three years. This means that, contrary to what the insurance adjuster may tell you, a person actually has three years to settle their claim.
When people are involved in motor vehicle accidents, they often find themselves overwhelmed trying to navigate the ins and outs of the process of dealing with an insurance company. Because of how complicated it is and how much time they find themselves putting into dealing with it all, I notice that clients start to consider settlement long before their case is “ripe” for settlement. Settling quickly for less than a claim is worth is simply letting the insurance company win.
When navigating a claim on behalf of a client who has been involved in a motor vehicle accident, I do not encourage a client to move forward until they have recovered from their injuries. While this is sometimes just a few short weeks in, other times it can be years down the road. It is important to remember that this process takes patience, and that patience will assure you get the best possible recovery.