People who are victimized in an auto accident are suddenly forced to deal with a host of troublesome issues. First and foremost, they have to seek medical attention for their injuries. Then they may have to contact their employer to inform their supervisor that they might be missing work in the near future. They also have to get their vehicle repaired, arrange for alternate transportation during that time, and file a claim with their medical insurance company.
So it’s completely understandable if they don’t engage the services of an auto accident attorney right away. However, crash victims shouldn’t relegate this task to the back burner indefinitely. There’s a limited time period during which a victim can file a personal injury lawsuit after being hurt in a motor vehicle collision.
This window of time is known in legal circles as the statute of limitations. Simply put, this is the amount of time that victims have after the accident occurs to file suit against those responsible for injuring them. If victims do not file a lawsuit before the statute of limitations runs out, then the law prohibits them from receiving any damages or compensation from the offending party.
So exactly how long is that statute of limitations? Well, it varies depending on the type of lawsuit. But usually, the statute of limitations is:
• 2 years from the accident date in the majority of auto accident cases• 1 year from the accident date for lawsuits against local government entities• 1 year from the accident date for Dram Act lawsuits (for instance, when an establishment that serves alcohol is sued by the victim of an accident caused by a drunk driver)• The 20th birthday of an auto accident victim (or the 19th birthday if the suit involves a local government agency) when minors are injured
To some people, one or two years can seem like plenty of time to hire an attorney after an auto accident. But filing a personal injury lawsuit isn’t like writing a paper in school where you can sometimes get away with waiting until the last minute to complete it. There are certain measures which much be taken by a lawyer before filing a formal lawsuit. (In fact, our firm routinely turns away clients who wait until the statute of limitations is about to run out before contacting our office.)
Plus, the longer an accident victim waits to engage the services of an attorney, the weaker the case can become. Evidence of the accident scene can get destroyed or misplaced. Witnesses can forget what they saw. And the potential defendants may leave town (or go out of business) and become virtually unreachable. In addition, attorneys can often negotiate settlements with insurance companies and/or other defendants before a lawsuit is ever filed – if they have the case in their hands well before the statute of limitations expires.
So remember – even though your world may be turned upside down after an auto accident, the clock is ticking toward the deadline for seeking legal action. Don’t let the statute of limitations run out on your lawsuit. Make it a priority to contact a qualified auto accident attorney as soon as you can.