What Is the Statute of Limitations in a Car Accident Claim?

After a car accident, you often have a lot on your plate. You may have significant injuries that you have to recover from, which can mean multiple medical appointments and time out of work that you have to juggle. You may have to take care of repairs to your vehicle or, in the case of a totaled vehicle, vehicle replacement to take into account. All those responsibilities can pile up quickly.

Taking care of the legal claim associated with your car accident can add further responsibilities and struggle when you already have too much to take care of. For many, that injury claim can fall by the wayside as you wait to find a lawyer or provide vital information to help you move forward with your claim.

The statute of limitations on car accident claims governs how long you can wait to proceed with your claim. If you fail to file a claim before the statute of limitations runs out, you may find it impossible to get compensation for the damages associated with your car accident lawyer.

What is the Statute of Limitations?

The statute of limitations limits how long you have to file a claim with the court. Each state has its statute of limitations. After you reach the statute of limitations, however, if you have not started the claim process, the court may refuse to hear your claim.

The statute of limitations prevents people from bringing a claim far after the actual event has passed when it could prove exceptionally difficult to collect any evidence related to the claim or to establish exactly where the victim’s injuries came from.

Tolling the Statute of Limitations

Sometimes, you may not want to move forward with your claim immediately. Your lawyer may, for example, advise that you wait until you have had the chance to recover significantly from your injuries before you file your final claim since you need time to determine your long-term medical costs, how long you will have to stay out of work because of your accident, and even what your long-term limitations and suffering will look like as you recover from your injuries.

A lawyer can help you start the claim process, which will toll the statute of limitations and allow you to proceed with the investigation into your claim and your injuries, recover from your injuries, or look for any other essential information you might need. This “tolls,” or pauses, the statute of limitations.

How Long is the Statute of Limitations?

The statute of limitations varies by state. Generally, states allow between two and three years for the victim of a car accident to file a claim. While New Jersey allows two years to file a claim, for example, New York allows up to three years to file a claim. Some states may have longer statutes of limitations for injury claims: Nebraska allows up to four years for victims of an accident to file a claim, while North Dakota may allow up to 6 years for you to file a claim.

If you have questions about your state’s statute of limitations, contact an experienced car accident lawyer as soon as possible. A lawyer can provide you with essential insight into how long you have to file your claim, help you start the claim process, and ensure that you do not miss out on the compensation you deserve before you wait too long to get the claim process started.

When Should I Contact a Lawyer About My Car Accident?

After a car accident, you should not wait to contact a personal injury lawyer. While the claim process, as a whole, can feel intimidating and time-consuming, the longer you wait to start moving forward with your claim, the more complicated it may grow. As a result, you should contact a lawyer as soon as possible after your accident.

Contacting an attorney soon after your accident can offer several advantages.

An attorney can advise you on how to manage the insurance company.

Dealing with the insurance company after a car accident can prove much more complicated than you may have originally anticipated. In a perfect world, the insurance company would make it as easy as possible for you to get in touch and get the compensation you deserve after a car accident.

However, insurance companies may drag out that process and even pressure you into accepting a low settlement offer, which could result in you ultimately failing to get the compensation you both need and deserve for your injury claim.

Soon after the accident, collecting evidence related to the event can prove much easier.

Many things can lead or contribute to a car accident. When it comes time to seek compensation for your injuries and losses, you want to pursue every avenue that may have contributed to your accident to maximize the compensation you can recover. However, in many cases, you may find it difficult to collect that evidence as time passes. Damaged roads, barriers, and signs get repaired, often quickly, to reduce the risk of future accidents.

Even vehicles may get repaired once the insurance company can evaluate them. The visibility in the area may change along with the season as leaves fall from trees in the fall or appear in the spring. Video footage may end up deleted. The sooner you have a lawyer on your side, the sooner your lawyer can pursue evidence relevant to your claim, providing you with essential information about who likely bears liability for your accident.

Witness memory may fade faster than you think.

Often, a car accident claim can rely heavily on eyewitness testimony. Witnesses outside the vehicle may have a much better view of what led to the accident since they could see both vehicles and many other factors simultaneously. The lack of involvement in the actual accident can also cause witnesses to offer a more accurate assessment of what they saw since they may prove less likely to offer a biased account of the accident.

However, the witness’s memory may change and shift soon after the accident. In many cases, witness testimony can prove unreliable. Furthermore, the longer you wait to have a lawyer collect witness accounts, the more unreliable witness memory can grow. Also, witnesses may be more difficult to contact after the accident.

A lawyer can make sure you understand how much compensation you deserve.

Sometimes, you will not have to contact the insurance company after a car accident. The insurance company may, instead, get in touch with you. The insurance company often wants to reduce the compensation to pay out for your injury claim as much as possible.

Accepting a low settlement offer will decrease the company’s liability and prevent you from seeking further compensation. A lawyer, however, can ensure that you understand your rights and do not inadvertently sign away compensation you might otherwise deserve for your car accident injuries.

Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations

statute-of-limitations-in-car-accident-claimWhile most states have strict timelines regarding when you must file a claim to pursue compensation after a car accident, they may also allow some exceptions that can give you more time to file a claim.

If you have allowed too much time to pass since your car accident, do not hesitate. Get in touch with an experienced attorney as soon as possible to learn whether you may have the option to move forward with your claim even though the statute of limitations has passed.

Injury to a Minor Child

Children often cannot file an injury claim independently after a car accident and may have to rely on their parents to do that task. However, sometimes, child injury cases can prove more complicated. Parents might choose to forego the claim process for any number of reasons. Most states take that into account when determining how they will handle injury claims, which means that they will toll, or pause, the statute of limitations until after the child becomes an adult.

In most states, that means waiting until the child turns 18 to start counting on the statute of limitations, but other states may start counting at age 21. Contacting an attorney can help parents determine what to do when their child is injured in a car accident, including when they may want to move forward with an injury claim.

Injury Discovered Well After the Accident

You should seek medical care immediately after a car accident. A car accident involves a great deal of force, which can lead to significant injuries even if you do not note substantial pain at the time of the accident.

Prompt medical treatment can prove critical to recovering as much as possible from your accident and seeking the compensation you deserve for the injuries associated with a car accident. However, in many cases, car accident victims may not realize the full extent of their injuries immediately after the accident, so they may not pursue medical attention.

Later, however, those injuries may start to appear. Serious back and neck injuries, broken bones, and even head injuries can masquerade as something else entirely, disguising their symptoms until they later appear.

You may still pursue compensation if you discover your injuries long after the initial accident. As soon as you discover that you suffered injuries in your car accident, contact an injury attorney to discuss your rights and how you can best move forward with your claim.

Inability to File

Sometimes, you may be unable to file a car accident claim immediately after the accident. Each person can have individual reasons for struggling to move forward with a car accident claim. A lawyer can help go over why you did not move forward with your claim before the statute of limitations expired and provide more information about whether you may have a reasonable exception to the statute of limitations.

What Should You Do if the Statute of Limitations Passed?

The fact that the statute of limitations has passed on an injury claim does not necessarily mean that you no longer have the right to proceed with a claim after your car accident. However, it can limit your options and the longer you wait, the less likely it may grow that you will recover reasonable compensation for the damages associated with a car accident.

If you suffered injuries in a car accident long enough ago that you think the statute of limitations on your claim may have passed, get in touch with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible so that you can start collecting evidence and determine whether you may have any grounds to pursue a claim even though the statute of limitations has passed. The longer you wait, the more difficult it can prove to find grounds to move forward with a claim, so get in touch with a lawyer as soon as possible.

Andrew Finkelstein Attorney for Motorcycle Accident

Andrew Finkelstein  Car Accident Lawyer in New York

A Lawyer Can Help With Your Car Accident Claim

Any time you have injuries from a car accident, you may need an attorney to help guide you through the claim process and maximize the compensation you can recover. Contact an experienced personal injury attorney in New York as soon after your accident as possible to learn more about how you can best pursue compensation for your injuries.