How Long After A Car Accident Can You Claim Compensation?

By Daniel Picard. Last Updated 4th August 2022. In this guide, we aim to comprehensively answer the question ‘How long after a car accident can you claim compensation?’ Were you injured in a car accident that was not your fault and are wondering how long after a car accident could you claim for an injury? In this guide, we explore this question in detail, providing information about different types of road traffic accident claims and the personal injury claims time limit that could relate to them.

How Long After A Car Accident Could You Claim For An Injury?

You will also find details on how to claim compensation if you’ve been injured in a car accident that was not your fault, along with information on how much compensation you could receive for specific injuries relating to such an accident. If you would like to begin a claim or are looking to check whether you could be eligible for compensation, you can call Legal Helpline at any time on 0161 696 9685, and we’d be happy to help you.

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A Guide On How Long After A Car Accident You Could Claim Compensation

How long after a car accident can you claim compensation?

Car accident compensation claim time limit guide

Have you suffered injuries in a car accident or another road traffic accident that was not your fault? If so, you may be wondering how long after a car accident you could claim. There are many reasons why someone injured in a car accident may not make a claim right after the accident. In some cases, they might not be aware of the fact that they have been injured until some time has passed. While some car crash injuries, such as a cut or laceration, for example, could be obvious straight away after a car accident, others, such as whiplash, may not present right away. This could lead to some delay in an injured party making a claim.

There are also other reasons why an injured party may not make a claim in the days following a car accident. These could include situations where a claimant might not have been physically or mentally able to claim at the time, or they may have been injured as a child and their parent may not have claimed on their behalf. In some cases, those who have lost a loved one in a road traffic accident may not realise that they could claim for their bereavement or assistance with funeral costs.

This guide explains the personal injury claim time limit that could apply to a range of situations that you might find yourself in after a car accident. As well as exploring how long after a car accident can you claim compensation for injury, we also answer questions concerning settlement amounts for injuries relating to a car accident, what can you claim for in addition to compensation for the pain and suffering of your injuries, and how to retain the services of a personal injury lawyer without having to pay them until your claim has been settled.

How Long After A Car Accident Can I Claim?

If you’ve sustained an injury in a car accident, the claim time limit can vary depending on your circumstances. However, the Limitation Act 1980 tells us that the general time limit to abide by is 3 years. This means that you have 3 years to begin a claim following the date of the accident.

Although, there can be scenarios where this time limit can be extended. Some examples include claims involving claimants under 18, or claimants with a reduced mental capacity. In these cases, their time limit will be suspended. For children, their time limit only begins on their 18th birthday.

For those with a reduced mental capacity, their time limit only begins if they recover.

In both cases, a litigation friend could make a claim on their behalf during the suspension period.

Additionally, you may not have realised you were injured at first. You can use the date you become aware of your injuries as the start date of your 3-year time limit. This alternative start date is known as your date of knowledge.

To find out if your time limit for a car accident claim has expired, get in touch with our advisors today.

How And When Should You Report A Car Accident

Before we look at how long after a car accident can a claim be made, let us explore how and when a car accident should be reported.

Who To Report To?

  1. The police – While in many cases, a car accident would be reported to the police right away, if you were not aware you were injured at the time, for example, you could report it to the police after the event.
  2. Your insurer – You may wish to get in contact with your insurer, even if you do not initially believe there has been any damage.
  3. The MIB – This is an organisation that helps provide compensation to those injured by uninsured/untraceable drivers.
  4. A hire company – If your vehicle is hired, then it would be wise to contact the hire company to report the accident.
  5. An employer – If your vehicle is a company vehicle, it would be wise to report the accident to your employer.
  6. A lawyer – If you feel you could have a claim for compensation, it might be a good idea for you to get legal advice. We could help with this.

When To Report An Accident

  • The police – If details were not exchanged between you and other parties involved in the accident at the scene, you would usually have 24 hours to report a car accident to the police. You can usually report online, in person or over the phone.
  • The insurer – In most cases, you should also report a car accident to your insurers within 24 hours of it occurring. However, it may be wise for you to check the time limit on your policy, to make sure.

How Long After A Car Accident Could You Claim For Fatal Car Accidents

While some car accidents could leave those involved with bruising, a sprain, or a strain, for example,  in other cases, the injuries they receive could be quite serious and, in severe cases, they could lead to the injured party passing away. It may be possible for you to make a claim for compensation on behalf of a loved one who has passed away due to a car accident that was not their fault.

If you’re wondering how long after a car accident can you claim compensation for a fatality, your claim may be subject to the following time limits:

  1. In the instance that the person passed away right after the accident, you would usually have three years from the date of the accident to make a claim.
  2. If the person died days, weeks, months or years after the accident, but they were within the three-year limitation period when they passed away, you could have three years from the date they passed away to claim.

How Long After A Car Accident Could You Claim On Behalf Of A Child?

If your child has been in a car accident and has suffered a broken bone, shock, or another type of injury, you could claim compensation on their behalf.  The compensation would usually be put in trust for your child until they turn 18. You would have up until your child turns 18 to make such a claim. If you do not do so, your child would have until their 21st birthday to claim for their injuries.

However, we would advise you to consider claiming as soon as possible after such an accident so that the evidence could be easier to gather. If you have taken witness contact details, for example, these could be subject to change as time passes, so it might be more difficult to get in contact with a witness later on.

How Long After A Car Accident Could You Claim On Behalf Of Someone With A Diminished Mental Capacity?

If you had a diminished mental capacity at the time of your accident, you may be wondering how long after an injury can you claim compensation. On condition that you were being treated under the Mental Health Act 1983 while you were in the accident, your three-year time limit would not begin until you were discharged from treatment.

If someone you are responsible for with a diminished mental capacity was injured in a car accident, you may be wondering how long after a car accident can you claim compensation for personal injury on their behalf. This could depend on the circumstances of the accident, so it would be wise to get advice tailored to your specific situation on this. You can call our team on the number at the top of the page to learn more.

Could I Make A Claim Beyond The Three-Year Time Limit?

It is not usually possible for someone to make a claim after the three-year time limit has passed, but there could be exceptional circumstances that could apply in a small number of cases. These would usually be assessed on a case by case basis against section 33 of the Limitation Act 1980. If you wish to check whether your claim could still be heard after the three year limitation period had passed, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Does Going To Court Affect The Time Limit?

You might be surprised to know that it is not common for car accident claims to reach the courts. Many claims of this nature are settled outside of the courtroom. Your solicitor would submit your claim to the defendant’s insurers or solicitors requesting compensation. Once liability had been admitted, they would then usually negotiate a settlement for you. However, if a settlement was not agreed on, or liability was disputed, the court may be asked to decide what would be fair.

When you make a claim through the court, the personal injury claims time limit would still apply. Your court action must have begun before the car accident injury claim time limit has been reached. In some cases, if your case is reaching the end of the limitation period, your solicitor may issue court proceedings protectively, to give you more time to obtain evidence, for further investigation into the claim, or for a settlement to be reached, for example.

Compensation Calculator For Car Accident Injury Claims

If, as well as wondering how long after a car accident can you claim compensation for injury, you are curious about how much compensation you could receive for your personal injury claim, you may be looking for a personal injury claims calculator to give you an idea of the compensation settlement your claim could attract. However, we should mention that this would never be an accurate sum, as all claims would be assessed on their own merits, and compensation would not be calculated to a more accurate level until you had attended an appointment with an independent medical expert so that a medical report could be prepared to detail your condition and your prognosis. This would then be used to value your claim. 

We understand that it may feel frustrating not to know how much your claim could be worth until you have had such an assessment, so we have collected some guideline payout amounts for specific injuries that we believe could relate to a claim of this type. Displayed below are figures taken from the Judicial College Guidelines. This is a publication that is annually updated to offer guidance on injury claim settlements in England and Wales.

InjuryNotesGuideline Payout Bracket
Moderate Neck InjuriesDislocations/fractures which lead to severe symptoms immediately after the injury is sustained and could require spinal fusion. Chronic conditions where other referred symptoms elsewhere in the body could also be included here. There could be vulnerability to further trauma in the future, and could also cause significant function impairment.£24,990 to £38,490
Moderate Neck InjuriesWhere pre-existing conditions could have exacerbated by the injury, for a period of 5 years or more. Also included in this bracket are wrenching injuries or soft tissue injuries that could cause disc lesions resulting in cervical spondylosis.£13,740 to £24,990
Back Injuries (Moderate)Where a crush/compression fracture leads to substantial risk of osteoarthritis. There could also be constant discomfort/pain and spinal fusion may be necessary.£27,760 to £38,780
Shoulder Injuries – SeriousWhere the shoulder has been dislocated and there has been some damage to the brachial plexus leading to hand or forearm sensory symptoms. A break of the humerus leading to a restriction of movement in the shoulder could also fall into this bracket.£12,770 to £19,200
Fractured Bone – ClavicleYour award would be calculated based on the level of disability, the extent of the fracture and any symptoms that you were left with.£5,150 to £12,240
Colles’ FractureUncomplicatedIn the region of £7,430
Very Serious Leg InjuriesWhere you are left with permanent mobility problems, and may need crutches or other mobility aids for the rest of your life.£54,830 to £87,890
Moderate Leg InjuriesWhere there are multiple/complex fractures usually to one limb. Severe crush injuries could also feature in this bracket. Injured parties’ award levels would be calculated considering the risk of degenerative changes, impact on the ability to work of the injured party, how perfect/imperfect the union of fractures was, and more.£27,760 to £39,200

If you cannot see the injury or injuries you’ve suffered in the table above, please feel free to call our team. We could offer some guidance over the phone.

What Could I Claim? – Costs Or Losses Claimants May Be Compensated For

The above section is related to general damages, which are damages designed to compensate you for the loss of amenity, suffering and pain you have experienced. It’s also possible to claim something known as special damages too.

Special damages are meant to compensate claimants for the financial losses and expenses that they have incurred or will incur in the future, as a result of their injuries. These could include, but are not limited to:

  • Care costs – If you have needed help with washing or dressing, for example, you may have had to have someone care for you, and this may have come at a cost. Care costs could be included as special damages.
  • Medical costs – If you have needed to pay for counselling, physiotherapy, or prescription costs, for example, these costs could also be included.
  • Travel costs – Any travel costs that have been incurred as a direct result of your injuries could also be classed as special damages and could be included within your claim.
  • Loss of earnings – If you have been off work recovering from your injuries, and have lost out on income, you could claim these losses as special damages. If you were unable to return to work, future losses could also be compensated for.

It is vital to keep proof of special damages if you are intending to claim for them. This could mean keeping hold of receipts, bank statements, bills and payslips so that you can pass them to your personal injury solicitor to include within your claim. If you do not have proof that you have incurred costs, you may not be able to claim for them, so you could miss out on compensation.

Steps You Could Take To Claim For An Injury In A Car Accident

If you’ve been injured in a car accident, as well as asking how long after a car accident can you claim compensation, you might also be interested in what to do next, whether you are considering claiming at this juncture or not. Some of the actions you could take could include:

  1. Getting medical attention – we would advise you to seek medical advice if you have been injured in a road traffic accident, no matter how minor your injuries may seem initially. Some symptoms of certain injuries, such as whiplash, for example, may not present right away and getting advice on how to deal with such an injury could give you the best chance of recovery.
  2. Taking photographs – If you can, and it is safe to do so, it may be a good idea to take photographs of the scene and your injuries. This could help not only to prove you’ve been injured but if you have photographic evidence of the positioning and damage to the vehicles involved, it could go some way towards proving who might have been at fault.
  3. Taking witness details – If anyone has witnessed the car accident you were injured in, it could be wise to take their contact details. In addition to this, it would be wise to also take the other driver’s details, including their insurance company’s details and vehicle number plate.
  4. Write down what happened – It might also be a good idea to write down what you’ve experienced and how it has affected you. You could refer to this if you were asked what had happened and you needed a reminder.
  5. Seek legal advice – If you are looking for advice, support or guidance with your claim, Legal Helpline is here to help. With years of experience in assisting claimants with a wide variety of personal injury claims, we can offer free, no-obligation advice on claiming compensation.

Our friendly, knowledgeable advisors would be able to perform an eligibility check on your case to let you know whether you could claim compensation for your injuries, and if they believe you could, they could also connect you with a personal injury solicitor, working on a No Win, No Fee basis to assist you further. There is no charge for advice, and by calling us for guidance or to check your eligibility, you would be under no obligation to use our services. However, we believe you could benefit from our assistance, as many claimants have done so before.

No Win, No Fee Claims For Injuries Caused By Car Accidents

If you were looking to retain the services of a personal injury lawyer to help you with your claim, you may be worried about paying them upfront. However, if you choose to work with a lawyer who could take your case forward on a No Win, No Fee basis, you would not have to pay them upfront, or throughout your case. Instead, at the beginning of your claim, you would sign a No Win, No Fee Agreement, also known as a Conditional Fee Agreement. This agreement would confirm that you would not have to pay any fees upfront or during your claim, and if your case is unsuccessful, you would not have to pay any of the fees your solicitor has incurred in pursuing your case. 

If your claim is successful, your solicitor may seek a small contribution toward their costs. This is known as a ‘success fee’ and would be deducted from your compensation at the end of the claim. This success fee is legally capped, so you would not have to worry about a large proportion of your settlement being taken up in legal fees.

We understand that you might have some questions about making a No Win, No Fee claim. Our team would be happy to answer those questions, and any others you may have about your claim.

Contact Legal Helpline Today

Now you should have a good idea of how long after a car accident you can claim for injury, you might be ready to learn more about your eligibility, or you might have further questions about starting your claim. Either way, we’re here to help and there are many ways in which you could contact us. You could simply telephone the helpline on 0161 696 9685, or you could fill out the contact form and we will call you. Otherwise, you could email the team at claims@legalhelpline.co.uk or use the handy live chat service on the site.

Where To Learn More

The MIB – If you were injured in a car accident and the other driver was untraceable, your claim may be put through the MIB. You can read more about what they do on their website.

Whiplash Injuries – If you have suffered whiplash as a result of a car accident, this NHS guide to whiplash could be useful.

Safety Statistics – GOV – You can find some information relating to road traffic accident statistics here.

You can learn more about car accident claims below:

How long after a car accident can you claim compensation? Other FAQs

What happens if my car accident claim goes to court?

The judge will hear evidence from your side and the defendant’s. They’ll then give their judgement as to who was at fault and what the compensation should be. Many cases never get to court and are completed at the settlement stage. 

Should I tell my insurance company about a minor accident?

You should tell your insurance company about a minor accident. Minor accidents can lead to severe injuries. If you were the victim of a minor accident that resulted in injuries, you could consider making a personal injury claim.

How much should I expect from my car accident settlement?

How much you get from your car accident settlement is dependent on a number of factors including the severity of your injuries, how much you lost out on financially because of the injuries and how robust your evidence is. Talk to our advisors for free if you have concerns. 

Thanks for reading our guide that aims to comprehensively answer the question ‘How long after a car accident can you claim compensation?’

Guide by JS

Edited by REG