Understanding Insurance Company Claim Deadlines

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A Washington Car Accident Lawyer Outlines Insurance Companies Deadlines to Respond to Your Claim

Insurers often try to slow down the injury claims process to gain a tactical advantage over you in settlement negotiations. While there are deadlines the insurance company must follow, they don’t apply to every car accident case. At Max Meyers Law, we provide the essential information you need to make informed decisions while we work together to deliver results—it’s just one of the many benefits you receive when you partner with an experienced Washington car accident lawyer. Here’s what else you should know about insurance company claim deadlines. 

Deadlines Insurance Companies Must Follow Under Washington Law 

Washington State divides car insurance claims into two categories: 

  • A first-party claim is when you file a claim under your own vehicle insurance policy 
  • A third-party claim is when you submit a claim against another person’s policy when they’ve caused you harm

When you file a first-party claim, Washington law imposes certain requirements on the carrier. The following would apply to your case: 

  • Once you file, the insurer has ten days to respond, acknowledging it received your claim.
  • Then, it has 15 days from receiving the fully completed claim to inform you, the policyholder, whether the claim is accepted or denied.
  • If the insurance company needs more time to investigate the claim, it must notify you in writing within 15 days after it initially receives your filing and provide the reason for the delay.

According to the state’s statute of limitations, you have three years from the date of your injury to file a personal injury lawsuit. This is the timeframe you have to settle your case. clockface-with-deadline-written-in-red

  • In a first-party claim, an insurance company cannot continue to negotiate with an individual who’s not represented by an attorney without giving them 30 days' notice of the pending expiration of the statute of limitations
  • In a third-party claim, insurers must give you 60 days' notice before the statute of limitations expires. 

Difference Between First and Third-Party Claims 

There may be times when you need to file a claim against your own insurance policy. For example, you may have been in an accident with an uninsured driver. If you have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage as part of your policy, your carrier is responsible for paying for damages related to the incident. 

However, an insurer doesn’t owe you as many duties under the law if you file a third-party claim.  These cases are often part of an adversarial litigation process, and the insurance company is trying to maximize its bottom-line advantage. 

Why Insurance Companies Try to Delay Your Claim 

Unfortunately, although insurance companies are expected to operate in good faith and have a legal obligation to provide compensation, they sometimes try to delay payment for as long as possible. An insurer might stall the claim’s process for any one or more of the following reasons:  

  • An adjuster needs additional evidence to adjudicate or make a formal decision on the claim. 
  • The adjuster suspects a claim is either fraudulent or exaggerated. 
  • The carrier wishes to avoid incurring a loss and hopes you’ll either grow tired of never-ending negotiations and accept a lower settlement or simply handle the accident and medical expenses out-of-pocket. 

Now, in all fairness, some claims—especially those involving serious, life-altering injuries or wrongful death tragedies—take considerable time to assess and adjudicate. The adjuster may be obliged to obtain, inspect, and evaluate a wide range of evidence, from medical records to crash scene data. Analyzing the paperwork can take weeks depending on the severity of an accident. This is one reason why more complex injury cases take longer to settle. 

As your legal counsel, the team at Max Meyers Law makes it our responsibility to stay in constant communication with insurance representatives so you always know what’s happening.   

In a worst-case scenario, a carrier could act in bad faith, making establishing an initial point of contact difficult, especially if you’re filing a first-party claim without legal representation. Even if the insurer received your claim and stated it’s actively being reviewed, an adjuster might avoid phone calls, ignore emails, and ask questions they know you can’t answer. 

How Delays Devastate Legitimate Insurance Claims 

Although insurers require ample time to settle a claim properly, some delays have less to do with formalities and more with the carrier’s own financial protection. As a result, your rights might suffer due to: 

  • Loss of evidence. If an adjuster or the court has any questions about liability, delayed negotiations compromise access to critical evidence. Without it, the insurance company may refuse to even consider your claim. 
  • Late compensation. Even if the company eventually offers a fair accident settlement, you may have already accrued significant medical debt and other financial difficulties in the months following the incident. 
  • Legal limitations. It’s not that an insurance company is trying to “run out the clock” on the statute of limitations—but there’s always a risk that delay tactics threaten your ability to achieve a fair settlement. 

When you hire a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer, we help remove some of the barriers that the insurance company tries to place in your way. Remember: they don’t have an unlimited ability to do what they want. Not only are they governed by state law, but they are also subject to common law principles of bad faith. Although third-party bad faith claims can be complicated in Washington, it’s possible to sue an insurance company for damages when it unreasonably delays your claim. 

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Max is a Kirkland personal injury attorney handling cases in Seattle, King County & surrounding in WA State.