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

The statute of limitations in a car accident claim varies from state to state. For example, car accident victims in Florida generally have two years to file a personal injury lawsuit. Additionally, if someone passes away from injuries suffered in a car accident, their loved ones typically have two years to file a lawsuit.

Accident victims need a car accident lawyer who can meet these deadlines, as doing so will determine whether the victim will receive the compensation they deserve for accident-related damages.

Examples of Car Accident Statutes of Limitations in Different States

While most states have time limits between two and three years, these statutes vary from state to state and can range from one to six years. If you suffer injuries in a car accident or lose a loved one to a fatal accident, you should quickly determine the statute of limitations in your state.

Statute of Limitations

Some examples of state-by-state statutes of limitations include:

  • Washington State: Three years
  • California: Two years
  • Tennessee: One year
  • New York: Three years
  • Texas: Two years
  • Missouri: Five years
  • Pennsylvania: Two years
  • Illinois: Two years

If you must file a lawsuit against a municipality (such as a city), you may face an even shorter filing deadline. No matter how long the law gives you to take legal action, always begin the process by contacting a car accident attorney immediately.

What Is the Significance of the Statute of Limitations?

When pursuing justice for a car accident, few things are more important than the statute of limitations, because:

States and Courts Take These Deadlines Seriously

Statutes of limitations are not optional. The legal code in each state dictates these deadlines, so the filing deadline is a matter of law.

While there are some exceptions to the statute of limitations, most car accident victims must file their cases within the statute of limitations.

You May Not File a Lawsuit if the Statute of Limitations Expires

There is a strong chance that you cannot file a lawsuit once the statute of limitations expires. You should never assume that your case will fit one of the rare exceptions to which the statutes of limitations do not apply.

Odds are, you’ll have to file your injury or wrongful death lawsuit before the statute of limitations expires if you want to pursue maximum compensation for your accident.

If You Can’t File a Lawsuit, You May Lose All Leverage

You may obtain compensation for a car accident if you:

  1. Negotiate an insurance settlement
  2. File a lawsuit and negotiate a settlement as part of the legal process
  3. File a lawsuit, take the case to trial, and convince a jury to award you compensation

The goal is to have an insurance company pay the compensation you deserve. When a car accident victim does not receive a fair settlement offer from an insurer, they can file a lawsuit. By filing a lawsuit, you notify the insurance company that you will take legal action to achieve a fair financial recovery.

If you cannot file a lawsuit because the statute of limitations expires, you will lose critical leverage in negotiations with an insurer. Without the potential of filing a lawsuit, the insurance company may adopt a take it or leave it approach to negotiations—and you can do nothing about it.

Missing the Filing Deadline Could Mean Missing Out on Compensation You Badly Need

You now know that if you do not file your lawsuit by the statute of limitations, you may:

  1. Lose negotiating power with insurers
  2. Lose your ability to file a lawsuit
  3. Have to accept the best settlement the insurer offers (if it offers a settlement at all)

You may not receive the compensation you deserve when you accept the insurer’s best offer without legal recourse (i.e., filing a lawsuit).

This can mean:

  • The money you receive from an insurer will not pay the cost of your damages
  • You will have to pay out of pocket for accident-related damages
  • You may face significant financial and psychological stress because you did not file your lawsuit in time

The point is this: Act quickly to retain a lawyer so they can file your case before the statute of limitations expires.

You May Need to Report Injuries and File a Claim Immediately After Your Accident

You may face one or more deadlines in addition to the statute of limitations.

For example, you may need to:

  1. File an insurance claim within a short time after your accident
  2. Report any injuries resulting from the accident (to an insurance company or other parties)

Some time may have already passed since you were in a car accident. You should not wait any longer to report your accident, document your injuries, and file any lawsuit you must pursue. Hiring an attorney is the surest way to address these essential tasks.

You Must Receive Complete Medical Care and Document Your Injuries

Even though time might have passed since the accident, it’s never too late to get medical treatment—even if you have already received some treatment.

Every car accident victim should:

  • Receive a full-body exam: Some injuries suffered during car accidents do not present immediate or obvious symptoms, with whiplash being one of those injuries. Receiving a complete exam will ensure you are aware of all your accident-related injuries, even those that aren’t causing detectable symptoms.
  • Explain all diagnosed and undiagnosed symptoms to a doctor: You should voice all your concerns to a doctor, including any symptoms you’ve been experiencing since the accident. This way, the doctor can provide diagnoses and treatment plans for all of your accident-related injuries.
  • Request imaging: Medical images are, in many cases, the more irrefutable proof of accident-related injuries. Ask your doctor whether X-rays, MRIs, CT scans, or other imaging services can show your injuries.
  • Receive copies of all diagnoses and images: Documenting your injuries, symptoms, and medical care is pivotal to building a solid case. Request copies of all diagnoses, bills, and medical images for accident-related care.
  • Follow the doctor’s orders: If you do not follow your doctor’s advice, the insurance company or other liable parties may use your disobedience against you. These parties may claim that you’re not as injured as you say or that you made your injuries unnecessarily worse if you don’t rest and recover per the doctor’s orders.

An attorney can ensure you make other smart actions after your collision.

How Can I Ensure That the Statute of Limitations Does Not Expire in My Car Accident Claim?

Even healthy people cannot easily keep track of an insurance claim or lawsuit. When you’re recovering from injuries or grieving a loved one’s passing, fighting for fair compensation grows more challenging, if not impossible.

Many car accident victims hire a trusted car accident lawyer to:

  • File their insurance claim or lawsuit before any deadlines expire, including the statute of limitations
  • Provide personalized legal advice
  • Protect them from insurance companies and other parties whose agenda may not align with the accident victim’s
  • Fulfill all of the obligations of the claim or lawsuit
  • Fight for the entire financial recovery the victim is entitled to

When you speak with prospective lawyers, your car accident lawyer will explain how long you have to file a lawsuit. More importantly, your lawyer will prepare all necessary documentation and file your claim as quickly as possible.

How Can a Car Accident Lawyer Help With My Claim?

Car accident attorneys share a common goal: ensuring their client’s full financial recovery. Though the details of each case are unique, car accident lawyers also provide a similar range of duties for clients, including:

Pursuing Evidence From the Car Accident

Evidence is, in many cases, the foundation of a winning claim or lawsuit.

Your attorney will seek any evidence that can help your case, which may include:

  • Eyewitness accounts of the car accident
  • Experts’ reconstructions of the accident
  • Video of the accident
  • Photographs of the accident scene, including vehicle damage that proves how the vehicles collided

A police report can also support your case for compensation. An attorney will move quickly to obtain all relevant evidence and incorporate that evidence into your claim or lawsuit.

Documenting and Calculating Damages

Lawyers must focus intently on their client’s damages. After all, these damages are the centerpiece of any car accident claim or lawsuit. The cost of your damages will determine how much compensation your lawyer seeks for you.

After creating a detailed record of your damages, your lawyer will determine the financial cost of those damages.

Your attorney may also secure proof of the damages using:

  • Medical bills
  • Medical images
  • Medical experts’ diagnoses
  • Mental health experts’ diagnoses of your pain and suffering
  • Invoices for vehicle repairs and temporary transportation
  • Any other documentation that speaks to your accident-related damages

Such documentation will go hand in hand with the calculation of your damages.

Leading Communications (Which Means Protecting the Client)

Car accident lawyers manage case-related communications for their clients and do so because:

  • Lawyers want to manage every detail of the case, ensuring that the case is cohesive.
  • Whenever a car accident victim speaks with an insurance company or defense lawyer, they risk saying something that may hurt their case.

Hire a lawyer so you can focus on recovery rather than your claim. By overseeing all communications, a lawyer will ease your mind and allow you to focus elsewhere.

Negotiating with the Insurance Company

Once they have identified and calculated your damages, your lawyer will begin negotiating for your financial recovery. Car accident lawyers typically negotiate with insurance companies, though in some cases, they negotiate with a lawyer representing a liable party (such as an uninsured motorist or vehicle manufacturer).

Starting a Trial if Necessary

While most car accident claims end with a settlement in the victim’s pocket, some go to trial. If settlement negotiations come to a standstill and your lawyer believes that a trial is in your best interest, they’ll discuss moving forward to the courtroom.

Damages Car Accident Lawyers Often Seek Compensation For

Most car accident victims who hire a lawyer do so because their accident-related damages are costly, and they know a lawyer can secure a just financial recovery for them. Your attorney will fight for a financial recovery that compensates you for all your damages, which may include:

Pain and Suffering

Car accident victims sometimes experience:

Every accident victim has different emotional, psychological, and physical symptoms. Your lawyer will evaluate your symptoms and determine the monetary cost of your pain and suffering.

Professional Damages

Injuries from a car accident may cause you to lose:

  • Income
  • Promotion opportunities
  • Performance bonuses
  • Earning power
  • Benefits

Such professional damages should be part of your car accident claim.

Vehicle Damage and Other Property-Related Costs

Your lawyer will gather invoices for bodywork, replacement parts, and other vehicle repairs. They will also consider the cost of temporary transportation and other property-related damages from your accident.

Healthcare Costs

Your attorney should seek full compensation for your accident-related medical bills. Regardless of your injuries, you should not have to pay out of pocket or suffer rising health insurance premiums for injuries you are not responsible for.

If you’ve suffered any other damages or faced a loved one’s wrongful death because of a car accident, your attorney will consider all your damages when leading your claim.

Hire Your Lawyer Before the Statute of Limitations Expires

Tatiana Boohoff - Car Accident Lawyer in Tampa
Tatiana Boohoff, Car Accident Attorney

Your case may have a strict filing deadline, so don’t wait to hire your personal injury lawyer. Seek a legal consultation immediately to begin your case within the timeframe the law allows.

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September 13, 2023
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