One of the most common questions we get asked by a person who has been injured in a car accident is:
“How long do I have to file my lawsuit?”
To answer that question, we usually want to make sure the injured person knows the difference between a lawsuit and a claim, because a lawsuit is an official court action and a claim is a notice filed with the insurance company. In fact, a claim can be filed with the insurance company well before a lawsuit is ever filed. The insurance company should be put on notice as soon after the injury as possible, in fact the sooner you put the insurance company on notice the better.
Ask you Injury Lawyer: How long do I have to file?
You may have heard people refer to the phrase “statute of limitations” or something similar to that phrase. “Statute of limitations” is simply a legal way of describing the time period you actually have to file a lawsuit after an injury. The statute of limitations differs based upon the type of injury case you may have.
Any person who is injured as a result of negligence of another person or company has two years from the date of the wrongful act to file a lawsuit in court. You should file a claim with the applicable insurance company well before the two year mark to put them on notice. Also, an adult (a person over 18 years of age) has two years to seek compensation for any damage or harm caused to property by someone else. There are a few types of cases that have exceptions to the two‑year SOL (such as claims for fraud, etc.) but you can safely assume that if you need to pursue a claim because of injuries caused to you by someone else, you have two years to do so.
When it comes to children, the rules are a little different. If your child is injured due to the negligence, or carelessness of another person, you may bring an injury claim on behalf of your child against the negligent party, or, your child can wait until two years after he or she attains 18 years of age, which means your child has until his or her 20th birthday, to pursue a claim to recover for injuries caused to him or her while he or she was a child or minor. However, keep in mind, that is the injury is due to medical malpractice there are even more different requirements. (If your child was injured due to medical malpractice, we recommend giving us a call so we can walk you through your deadlines.)
Statute of Limitation Exception for Injury Claims
Another exception to the two‑year SOL rule as discussed is when the negligent act does not become known until some date after the act occurred. Obviously, if you are in a car accident, you are aware of the act occurring and the SOL, therefore, begins to run on the date of the accident. But, for example, if you go into the hospital for a medical procedure, you may not realize that a sponge or other medical instrument was left inside your body until many months later. It is only upon the date which you knew, or should have known, of the negligent act that the statute of limitations begins to run. It is from that date that you have two years within which to file a lawsuit against the negligent person.
It is my recommendation to you, however, that you NEVER wait two years, or anywhere close to two years, before pursuing your claim. My reasoning behind this is simple: If you suffer relatively minor injuries in an accident, you will have either fully recovered, or recovered to the point where you are as good as you are going to get, likely within six months from the date of the accident. Therefore, you will know, or should know, by that time whether the insurance company is willing to be reasonable with you and settle your injury claim. Keep in mind, you may be in a situation that you have not recovered after the full two years, but that does not matter, you still need to act.
Do you need an accident attorney?
If you suffered a serious injury in an accident, you probably can’t afford to wait very long before retaining legal counsel to initiate an injury claim on your behalf. You will more than likely have been unable to work and care for your family as a result of your injuries and find yourself financially strained because of it.
In any event, if you or a loved one has been injured, or worse, as the result from an accident, you should learn as much as you can about the legal process and how it can help you and your family as quickly as possible. After having educated yourself with as much information as you can find, you should then be in a position to decide whether you need the services of a lawyer.