The length of time you have to file a lawsuit after a car accident depends on which US state you were in when your accident occurred. States have different time limits for personal injury cases and may also vary on the circumstances. The statute of limitations is a set of time limits that allows you to file a lawsuit in court, as per the Legal Information Institute (LII). Once lapsed, the legal right to sue no longer holds.
The specific deadline prescribed by each state ranges. Some states also have different specified time limits for bodily injury, wrongful death, and property damage.
The Factors that Might Shorten Your Time for Filing a Claim
The statute of limitations may change, especially if legislators think it should be longer or shorter than necessary. If you decide to pursue legal action, your lawyer will know which time limits apply to your situation. Generally, it is more restrictive when your claim involves the federal or state government, a public agency, or a government employee.
For instance, your car accident was a result of a high-speed police pursuit. If the police cruiser struck your vehicle, causing you to hit another car and have a couple of injuries and a damaged car, you might have a valid legal claim against the police department or officers. However, the process can be more stringent and shorter.
Before you can sue the public entity or employee for civil damages, you must file the claim with the right agency or office. Moreover, you have to do it within a limited time frame.
Federal and state governments shortened their time limits to deter and reduce baseless claims. Moreover, rejections may happen more than approvals. If the one liable for your injuries and property damage is a public entity, it may be beneficial to consult a lawyer who can help you handle your claim.
What “Tolling the Statute of Limitations” Is
In some instances, statutory limitations may be extended. When this happens, it is known as tolling. The court may temporarily delay, suspend, or pause the time limit because of a reasonable circumstance, such as the following:
- The injury victim is a minor or mentally incapacitated for the meantime
- Identified liable party is in prison, bankrupt, or missing
- Natural disaster, pandemic, or similar events
- A reasonable delay in the discovery of one’s injuries, such as severe complications
Before the applicable time frame limit passes, you may want to consider speaking to a legal professional to know your next steps. Some injury victims belatedly realize how little time they have left to seek compensation from those liable, making it more challenging to meet the deadline.
What You Stand to Lose if You Miss the Filing Deadline
It is better to have plenty of time left when filing a car accident-related lawsuit. Having evidence does not mean you are ready to file a claim. Your lawyer will still need to investigate the surrounding circumstances to build a strong case against liable parties. Perhaps the greatest motivation to be aware of your case’s statute of limitations is understanding the consequences when it expires. You may lose the right to recover the following:
- Medical Expenses: It will cover medical costs incurred in treating your injuries, including future treatments, medications, and rehabilitation. If your loved one has suffered catastrophic injuries like brain trauma, then you may have high medical expenses.
- Lost Wages: Time spent recuperating because of your injuries can lead to lost earnings, and more so, if the accident left you permanently disabled and unable to work.
- Vehicle Repairs or Replacement: Depending on the extent of damage, vehicles may need to be replaced instead of repaired. If the collision damage is repairable, it may be costly and extensive. You cannot recover these costs if the filing deadline has expired.
- Pain and Suffering: Some injury victims may seek compensation for the pain and suffering caused by the unfortunate incident. Called non-economic damages, these compensate claimants for what they have experienced.
Avoid Costly Legal Mistakes
To help minimize the risk of missing out on the statute of limitations, speak to a lawyer to find out how long you have to file a lawsuit after a car accident. At Pintas & Mullins Law Firm, our team of lawyers can help you identify the applicable time limits for your case to help ensure that you can win financial awards. Reach out at (800) 223-5115.