While Statutes of Limitation prevent a claim if suit is not filed within a certain time period, notice provisions require that a formal written notice be sent, in the proper format, to the potentially liable party. Failing to provide notice can sometimes be fatal to a claim. For example, some government entities require notice sent by registered or certified mail, depending on the statute, within 30 to 90 days after the accident. In Massachusetts, state law requires anyone who slips and falls on a property, even a private property, to provide notice providing all of the information referred to in the statute within 30 days.
Evidence is Lost
The job of the police at an accident is not to save all available evidence. They do a police report. In some accident cases you will want skid mark photos. Such marks fade quickly, depending on weather. Intersections change appearance. Streets are repaved, widened, lines are repainted and many other changes can make it vital to preserve photos as soon as possible after an accident. Don't forget, in a auto case, photos of the cars are very important. Once the car is junked, the photo opportunity is gone. Do not rely on the photos the insurance company may or may not have taken. They may or may not have been saved.
Witnesses Forget, Move or Worse.
In cases where liability is disputed, getting witness statements can be important. If an insurance company adjuster is running behind your back, asking witnesses suggestive questions and permanently reducing the testimony to signed, sworn statements, you've got problems. Also, by waiting, you risk the fact that memory does in fact fade over time. Short term memory is best. Witnesses may move, leaving no new address. Or, they can die.
Multiple Injury Cases And Limited Coverage Equal Danger
Where multiple parties are injured, if the negligent person has limited insurance coverage, it is "first-come-first-served" regarding the insurance. For example, in many jurisdictions, the minimum mandatory bodily injury insurance coverage is $20,000. Suppose one or two injured people with fairly serious injuries make claims and exhaust that coverage. I have had procrastinators come to me very late in the game in this scenario where there is little or nothing left.
Memory Does Fade.
You will be required to give at least some form of initial statement, even if only to your own attorney. Insurance companies may want statements. If the case can't settle and must be placed into suit, you will need to answer "interrogatories", a series of questions sent by the insurance lawyers, and these must be answered under pains and penalties of perjury. Then, depositions are taken regarding much more detailed facts. A bad answer is: "It was so long ago how can I remember?" This hurts your own credibility. The injured person, the plaintiff, always has the burden of proof. The plaintiff with anything less than a clear memory of all pertinent details is a bad witness and risks a bad result.