Personal Injury: Notice of Claim Requirements
If you've had an accident, there are often notice requirements. Many people understand statutes of limitation. These statutes give an injured person a given number of years after an accident to file a proper complaint in a court with jurisdiction, or the case is barred forever. By contrast, notice provisions require that a proper "notice of claim" be given within a certain period of time after an accident. For example, your own insurance company, regardless of what company it is, requires reasonably prompt notice. This applies to claims for property damage, payment of medical bills, payment for your lost wages and other claims. State laws often require 30 day notice of claim to property owner in a slip and fall accident. Suing the government, any government at any level, nearly always requires compliance with numerous legal requirements, not the least of which is often an initial "notice of claim". Subsequently, there is often what is called a "presentment" procedure which requires injured parties to present the substance of the claim along with documentation long before the statute of limitations runs, to give the governmental entity an opportunity to consider settlement before a law suit is filed. Each state, each municipality, and the federal government all have their own procedural statutes and regulations imposing a variety of notice obligations. So, while procrastinators might understand the concept of a statute of limitations, and play chicken with the law by waiting until the last minute, it is often far more important to give notice of the claim very early after the accident in order to even have the right to make a claim later. An extreme example is presented by uninsured provisions in auto insurance policies. It is not unusual for an auto insurance policy to require that notice be given to the police either immediately after the collision, or no later than 24 hours after the accident, or the company will deny payment of an uninsured claim. Finally, there is no such thing as a "standard form" "notice of claim". I'm not saying that such official looking documents do not exist in allegedly legal software or in paper clip stationery stores. However, each statute and regulation specifies the content and form of notice that is required. So, for example, the notice required after a slip and fall on government property, and a notice for the same slip and fall on private property are distinct documents, not to be confused with a notice to a claimant's insurance company preserving the right to bring later claims for medical bills, lost wages or other claims. This is one more reason why it is crucial to retain an experienced personal injury attorney as soon after an accident as possible, to ensure that important rights are not unintentionally waived.