How Long Do I Have To File a Claim After a Car Accident?

Two people inspecting the damage on their vehicles after a car accident. The one is taking photos.

Car accidents are an unfortunate fact of life. Despite taking the proper precautions and adhering to traffic laws, Americans fall victim to car accidents every day with a number of those accidents resulting in catastrophic and serious injuries.

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How long do I have to file a claim after a car accident?

If you’ve been injured in an automobile accident, state law requires you to act quickly to recover compensation. If the settlement offered by an insurance company does not completely cover your losses, a personal injury lawsuit may help you recover the compensation you deserve. You should act promptly, however, to have the best chance at a successful case.

Reporting an accident to the police and insurance

After you’ve been involved in an auto accident, you should contact authorities to report the wreck. The responding officers will take down critical information, including what happened, if any injuries were sustained, the contact information of involved drivers and passengers, witness statements, and other information regarding the accident. 

Contacting law enforcement and having a police report filed is critical to any auto insurance claim or additional legal action. The crash report gives insight into what happened, who was involved, and other evidence that may be critical to an auto claim or personal injury lawsuit. 

What is Colorado’s legal statute of limitations?

Like all states, Colorado has a statute of limitations — a defined time limit for when victims can bring forward a personal injury lawsuit. According to Colorado law, victims of auto accidents may bring forward a lawsuit up to three years from the date of their injury. Generally, all personal injury lawsuits have a statute of limitations of two years.

Exceptions to Colorado’s legal statute of limitations

In some cases, the state’s statute of limitations may be extended. The legal concept of tolling is when a case is put on pause for an indefinite amount of time because of an issue that is out of the plaintiff’s control. Possible factors that qualify for tolling include: 

  • If an individual who caused the accident fled or is otherwise unable to be located, the statute can be extended to four years
  • When a victim is a minor and cannot bring forward a case on their own
  • A victim is not mentally competent to bring forward a case. In the case of a catastrophic injury, a victim may be incapacitated because of their injuries.
  • The defendant is bankrupt
  • Claims involving the government
  • The discovery rule — the statute of limitations on a personal injury claim begins to run on the date that a claimant discovered an injury or loss

How to prove your injury in a car accident

Proving an injury in a car accident boils down to being able to establish that the carelessness or negligence of the other driver caused the accident. Personal injury lawsuits are built on the concept of negligence. 

One of the four prongs of negligence is that damages, such as an illness or injury, were sustained. After a car accident, medical professionals may be dispatched to assess the injuries of victims. If these medical professionals tend to your injuries at the scene, this helps strengthen the claim that your injuries were the result of the accident. 

If you are transported in an ambulance, this can also help strengthen your case. It’s harder to show the link between an injury sustained and a car accident if you receive medical treatment days or weeks after the accident has occurred. 

Who covers my injuries after a car accident?

Colorado follows a majority of states that adhere to at-fault auto laws. As an at-fault state, the auto insurance company of the driver who caused the accident is responsible for paying the medical bills and property damage following a car accident. As such, Colorado requires all drivers to carry automobile insurance with the following minimum coverages

  • $25,000 for bodily injury or death to any one person in an accident
  • $50,000 for bodily injury or death to all persons in any one accident
  • $15,000 for property damage in any one accident

After an auto accident, you should contact your auto insurance company. They will then contact the insurance company of the other driver and begin the claims process. As your insurance company negotiates with the other auto insurance company, you’ll likely be offered a settlement to cover medical expenses and property damage. 

It’s common for auto insurance companies to lowball settlement offers, as their goal is to keep costs as low as possible. The Elite Litigation Group at Bachus & Schanker has years of experience negotiating with insurance companies to recover the compensation you deserve. 

What damages can I recover in a car accident lawsuit? 

Catastrophic injuries following a car accident can result in mounting medical expenses. Extended hospital stays, consistent care from medical professionals, and repeat tests and exams are common for victims of serious car wrecks. 

Comprehensive legal representation is one of the best ways to recover the compensation you deserve. Car injury lawsuits allow victims to seek economic, non-economic, and in some cases, punitive damages.

Economic damages compensate a victim for financial losses sustained following a car accident. These losses are typically easy to calculate and include the following: 

  • Medical bills
  • Hospital stays
  • Treatment costs
  • Property damage
  • Loss of Income  

Non-economic damages compensate for the pain and suffering endured following an accent. These losses can include:

In some cases, punitive damages may be levied against a defendant. Punitive damages are designed to punish a defendant for their actions and are often levied in cases where there are multiple parties such as a trucking company, third-party contractor, or government entity. 

If your loved one or child has suffered catastrophic injuries from an auto accident, you can recover compensation to help with mounting expenses. The road to recovery may be difficult, but collecting the damages you and your family deserve does not have to be. 

How long does it take to get paid after settling a car accident claim?

A payout happens rather quickly once the settlement has been finalized. If you pursue legal action via a personal injury lawsuit, it may take a couple of months to a couple of years for the case to resolve. The more severe the car crash, the more evidence may be required to prove your case and the lengthier the settlement process may be. 

How can an attorney help me with my car accident claim

A Lady Justice statue and a gavel on a car accident attorney's desk.

A car accident claim has many layers to it. Working with the experienced car accident attorneys at the Elite Litigation Group means you’ll have experts with detailed knowledge of supporting car accident victims. 

We will help connect you to invaluable resources through our Victim Advocates Team. This specialized team of legal experts, victim advocates, and outreach experts provides legal expertise and a comprehensive approach to helping you along the path to recovery. 

Schedule A Free Case Consultation With Our Team. Contact Colorado’s catastrophic car injury lawyers today to learn more. 


CRS 13-80.

Mandatory Automobile Insurance Coverage. Toll Definition.