What is the Statute of Limitations for Car Accident Claims?

If you’ve been injured in a car accident, you may wonder if you are eligible for compensation for your losses and damages. Generally speaking, the driver who is responsible for the crash is required to pay the damages of the other parties who were involved. Damages may include medical bills related to the accident, lost wages, vehicle repair or replacement, pain & suffering, emotional distress, and wrongful death.

Working with a car accident lawyer can increase your likelihood of a successful insurance claim and may help you maximize your compensation. Although most car accident claims are settled out of court, you and your car accident attorney may need to file a lawsuit against the liable driver to obtain full compensation.

If you seek compensation for a car accident claim, it’s important to contact a car accident injury lawyer immediately to begin the process. Your lawsuit must be filed within a certain timeframe, called a statute of limitations. If you wait too long, the statute of limitations may pass, and you’ll no longer be able to seek compensation.

What Is a Statute of Limitations and How Does it Affect My Car Accident Claim?

A statute of limitations is a law that requires a civil or criminal case to be initiated within a certain period. Car and truck accidents are typically included under the personal injury statute of limitations. You and your car crash attorney must file your lawsuit within the statute of limitations, or the court will “time-bar” your claim and will not allow it to move forward because the time limit has expired. The statute of limitations clock usually begins on the day of the accident. Sometimes, such as in a wrongful death claim, it begins when the wrongdoing was or should have been discovered.

Why Do States Recognize a Statute of Limitations?

There are multiple reasons why statutes of limitations for tort claims have been put in place. Still, they exist so that claims can be resolved relatively quickly after the alleged incident. Statutes of limitations protect individuals from the constant threat of legal action and help claims be settled more fairly. Evidence tends to be lost over time: witnesses lose an accurate memory of what happened or forget crucial details, while physical evidence can be lost or begin to degrade. It could be impossible to determine what happens when that happens, and there may be no way to obtain justice.

Who Determines Statutes of Limitations?

Each state sets statutes of limitations, which will vary depending on what type of claim is being made. Car accident claims usually fall under personal injury, which can include physical and emotional injuries from the accident, or property damage, which typically includes the vehicle and any possessions that were damaged in the incident.

The statute of limitations for personal injury law averages 2 to 3 years after the incident but can be as little as one year or as many as six years, depending on the state. Property damage is similar, although many states set a different statute of limitations for personal injury and property damage. Working with an experienced car accident lawyer can greatly benefit your case. When you’re struggling to recover from a car accident, it can be difficult to understand the legal limitations you’ll face fully.

Are There Ever Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations?

Most car accident victims must adhere to the prescribed time frame in the state where the accident occurred. However, there may be a few exceptions:

When a government entity may be responsible: When a government employee or entity is liable, the statute of limitations may be shortened.

Dram shop laws: in some states, victims of a DUI collision can sue the establishment or bartender who served drinks to the intoxicated person. The statute of limitations may be shorter in these circumstances.

Victim is a minor: When the victim of a car crash is a minor, the statute of limitations may begin when they turn 18, not the date of the collision.

Wrongful death: When a person is killed because of another person’s recklessness or carelessness, it’s called wrongful death. This is a subset of personal injury claims but has its statute of limitations in many states.

Are Insurance Claim Limits the Same as the Statute of Limitations?

In most cases, you must initiate an insurance claim within a limited time following the accident. This is generally about 30 days but will vary between policies, so contacting your insurance agent or reviewing your policy paperwork is important. The insurance company will establish the time limit, separate from the state-determined statute of limitations that governs tort claims in court.

Many car accident claims are resolved out of court in negotiation, but when unsuccessful, your personal injury attorney may suggest pursuing litigation in court. Your lawsuit will need to be filed within the statute of limitations. Victims who do not pursue an insurance claim or lawsuit within the allotted time may be unable to recover compensation for their losses, damages, and injuries.

Car crash victims need to understand the statute of limitations to ensure they do not lose their opportunity to claim the compensation they may be eligible to receive. If you’ve been injured in a car accident, call a car accident lawyer today to protect your rights, learn about your legal options, and begin the claims process!

This article is courtesy of Benson & Bingham Accident Injury Lawyers, LLC, a respected personal injury firm in Las Vegas, Nevada.