Being involved in an accident can be a traumatic experience, and if another party was at fault, there will likely be significant damages the victim is entitled to claim. An accident victim is eligible to make a claim for a variety of types of damages, including medical bills, lost income, property damage, and pain and suffering.
Common types of accidents where damages can be claimed for personal injury include:
- Slip and fall accidents. These kinds of accidents may happen on the premises of private businesses where the business owner is liable for their customers’ safety. Debris or spills can cause a slip and fall accident.
- Vehicle accidents. Over 100,000 Iowans are involved in vehicle accidents each year, and over 1400 are seriously injured.
- Workplace accidents. Getting injured while on the job – even if the nature of the job is not particularly dangerous – is a primary reason for a personal injury claim.
Filing a claim can be a complicated and time-consuming process, requiring extensive documentation and evidence to justify the damages claimed. But how long does an accident victim in Iowa have to file a claim?
Statute of Limitations in Iowa For Accident Claims
A statute of limitations is a law that establishes a time limit for filing a lawsuit. Statute of limitations laws exist in every state, and the time limit depends on what kind of lawsuit is being filed. The statute of limitations law concerning the filing of a personal injury lawsuit in Iowa is under Iowa Code section 614.1, and states that there is a time limit of two years to file a lawsuit in civil court.
The two-year deadline generally begins from the date when the injury occurred, and in this case, the day of the car accident. Missing this deadline, for the most part, is not an option if a car accident victim wants to successfully reclaim damages. If a car accident victim decides to file the lawsuit after the two-year deadline has passed, the defendant could file a motion for the lawsuit to be dismissed.
There is also a two-year statute of limitations on settlement with the defendant’s insurance company. This means the amount of damages claimed must be agreed on by that date.
There are some exceptions to the two-year rule. If the at-fault party who caused the injury moves away from Iowa, therefore becoming a resident of another state, the period they are not a resident of Iowa will not count toward the statute of limitations. There is also an exception for accident victims under the age of 18. After the victim turns 18, they have one year after they turn 18 to file a lawsuit. This also applies to a person suffering from mental illness at the time of the accident. If the person recovers and is declared legally competent, the one year extension applies.
What Kind of Damages Can an Accident Victim Claim in a Personal Injury Settlement?
- Lost income. Injuries from an accident can keep the victim away from work for a long period of time, especially if surgery and extensive recovery time is needed. During treatment, an employee may not be able to perform all of their normal work duties, and if the injury is permanently debilitating, they may not be able to return to their job at all. The victim may have to miss work to attend follow-up doctor’s appointments or physical therapy sessions.
- Medical bills. Medical treatment after an accident can be incredibly expensive, even if the victim has health insurance. In a personal injury lawsuit, an accident victim can claim expenses for emergency services, hospital stays, surgeries, follow-up doctor visits, physical therapy, prescription drugs, and assistive devices, such as crutches or a wheelchair.
- Property damage. In a car accident caused by another party, an accident victim likely will have damage to their own vehicle as well as to items inside the vehicle.
- Pain and suffering. An accident will inevitably impact the victim’s quality of life in a way that doesn’t have concrete economic costs. Non-economic damages include emotional distress, a loss of enjoyment of life, and physical pain. A settlement that includes damages for pain and suffering can compensate for pain and suffering by making the victim’s life easier financially.
What is the Best Way to Support an Accident Claim?
Two years is not a long time when recovering from an accident. The extent of an injury experienced in a car accident may not be evident at the time, and treatment and rehabilitation can be extensive. Therefore, it could be tempting to wait to file a claim. However, it’s very important not to delay in building a case for a personal injury lawsuit. In order to best support a claim, the accident victim should keep careful records of their medical bills. A log should be kept with the date and reason for hospital stays, doctor visits, or physical therapy, along with invoices. A recovery journal describing daily progress in treatment and recovery from injuries can describe mental and emotional distress, physical pain, and the loss of enjoyment of everyday activities and interests. Days of work missed because of pain or debilitation, and/or medical appointments.
Dealing With the At-Fault Party’s Insurance Company
It’s important for an accident victim to realize when seeking a settlement from the other party’s insurance company that the agents are being advised by a legal team. Especially when it comes to non-economic damages for pain and suffering, an insurance company will want to keep a settlement on the conservative side. Advocating for oneself in a personal injury claim can be stressful and difficult without having the relevant legal expertise. Additionally, it can be tempting to take the first offer of a settlement while focused on recovery from injuries just to get it over with – potentially missing out on a higher amount of compensation.
The best way to ensure a personal injury claim to an insurance company is in your favor and awards the maximum compensation you are entitled to is to hire an experienced car accident lawyer in Des Moines. Contact or call us at 515-444-4000 today – the initial consultation is free.