Time Limits For Filing Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Claims

In an earlier post I wrote about uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage.  This type of insurance may be used in motorcycle crashes or car accidents that cause personal injury or wrongful death.  But what are the time limits for filing such a claim?  They can be as much as ten years, although your insurance policy (which is also a contract) may create a shorter filing period.

The insurance contract may alter the standard ten-year time limit as long as the altered period is reasonable and clearly set forth in the policy.  The contractual limitation period’s reasonableness is determined in light of the provisions of the contract and the particular circumstances of its performance and enforcement.  Thus, although a limitations period may be reasonable and enforceable when applied to one policyholder, the same time limit may be unreasonable and unenforceable when applied to a different policyholder under different circumstances.  Any contractual limitations provision that requires a plaintiff to bring the action before the person’s loss or damages can be determined is per se unreasonable.   A two-year time limit is common and frequently upheld by Iowa courts.

If you don’t file your uninsured or underinsured motorist within the policy’s time limits, and the court upholds those time limits, then your uninsured or underinsured rights are forfeited and the court will dismiss your case.  So it is very important that you be familiar with your insurance policy and any time limits for bringing a claim.  Generally you’re assumed to have read and understood your insurance policy, so failure to read it or all of its provisions is normally not an excuse. 

Uninsured and underinsured motorist insurance claims are complicated matters that blend insurance law, contract law, and personal injury law in a unique way.  To fully determine your legal rights you have to analyze your insurance policy, state statutory law, and state court law and apply all of that to the circumstances of your accident.  That is not something that you should not undertake without an attorney.  Please contact me if you have a question about insurance law or personal injury law.

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