What Is the Statute of Limitations for Car Accident Cases?

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What Is the Statute of Limitations for Car Accident Cases?

Each state has specific rules around who can file a lawsuit and the period of time in which they must do so to protect their legal rights. This is done to prevent people from filing lawsuits many years after the fact. 

But what is the statute of limitations for car accident cases? It can vary state to state. That’s why it is important to take action quickly and speak to an experienced attorney who can advise you on the timeline of your case.

At Morgan & Morgan, our team of over 1,000 attorneys has helped clients recover over $20 billion in damages. From the moment you hire us, we are with you every step of the way, from the initial free case evaluation, where you can learn about your claim and the statute of limitations for car accident cases, to settlement negotiations or even trial, if necessary.

To get started, contact Morgan & Morgan today for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.

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Get answers to commonly asked questions about our legal services and learn how we may assist you with your case.

  • What Kinds of Injuries Are Serious Enough to File Suit?

    Following an accident, filing a lawsuit may only be relevant if you’re suffering from severe injuries. If you had minor injuries, like whiplash that went away after a couple of weeks, it may not be worth filing a lawsuit. Likewise, if you’re able to reach an agreement with your insurance company about your damage costs, you may not need to work with a lawyer to ensure proper payout. However, many people with catastrophic injuries need assistance with protecting their full rights and getting maximum compensation. 

    If your doctor tells you that you’re dealing with multiple injuries or injuries that may require surgery or ongoing physical therapy, these injuries may be severe enough to file a lawsuit. If you suspect that you’ll need future treatment for the conditions, tell your personal injury lawyer about this so he or she can review all the information and determine what it means for your lawsuit.

  • What Happens if I Don't File a Lawsuit Within the Statute of Limitations?

    The statute of limitations is a strict rule that can only in rare exceptions be told or extended. When you attempt to file a lawsuit beyond the statute of limitations for your case in your state, the judge will dismiss it and throw it out. This means you may be personally responsible for the injuries and resulting compensation damages you sustained from the wreck, regardless of if someone else was at fault. 

    Statutes of limitations can vary for property damage, personal injury claims, and medical malpractice claims. In many cases, these are a few years. In most states across the country, the statute of limitations is somewhere between one and six years. For example, in Kentucky, Louisiana, and Tennessee, victims must file a personal injury lawsuit within one year from the incident's occurrence or the discovery of injuries. In states like Maine, New Jersey, and North Dakota, however, victims have up to six years to file a personal injury lawsuit.

    If you believe there are any circumstances that would allow your statute of limitations to be extended, discuss these options with your lawyer. 

  • Does This Statute of Limitations Change Based on Who I'm Suing?

    One of the most complex aspects of any personal injury claim is determining who is responsible for your injuries. It may be more than one entity. In these cases, you need to be prepared to communicate with a personal injury lawyer immediately. Morgan & Morgan personal injury lawyers have extensive experience in investigating these claims and determining who is responsible for your injuries, particularly if more than one entity is liable. In those cases, your lawyer will tell you more about whether specifics apply to reduce the statute of limitations. 

    For example, if you believe that your recent car accident was caused because of poor road maintenance or defective guardrails that fall under the purview of city, county, or some other type of government, you likely need to take action sooner than your state's statute of limitations. You may need to file a lawsuit as soon as six months after the incident occurs. To verify what makes the most sense in your case, make sure to set aside a time to meet with a personal injury lawyer as soon as you can. This will protect your rights.

  • Are There Any Exceptions to Existing Statutes of Limitations?

    Some states include other exceptions created by contract or by statute. However, there are exceptions that tend to apply across all states that may allow a victim to extend the filing date beyond the existing statutory period. For example, a tolling agreement can be entered by both sides to waive the statute of limitations. This allows the plaintiff to decrease court costs because the certainty of the agreement allows both parties to look at their positions and to conduct effective negotiations. These cases may be resolved outside of court and not require judge or jury intervention. Equitable tolling is another option. This is when the plaintiff could not reasonably have discovered the cause of action until after the statute of limitations had passed. 

    Another common exception to the statute of limitations has to do with the defendant's competency status. This person may be a minor, legally unfit to stand trial, or legally incompetent. 

    That statute of limitations may be told at a judge's discretion until the minor reaches age 18 or until incompetency is removed. The final reason that there may be an exception to your statute of limitations is if the defendant has left the state. If the defendant is not there to file a claim against, this can be impossible for you to pursue compensation.

  • What About Dram Shop Laws?

    Another person who caused the accident might not be the only one legally responsible for your injuries. In some cases where a person was over-served alcohol and later went on to cause a wreck, depending on your state, the bar may be named in a lawsuit. 

    Another possible complicating factor in personal injury lawsuits are Dram Shop laws. There are 43 states in America that have adopted some form of Dram Shop law. A Dram Shop law allows you to pursue compensation and name liability against a bar or establishment that served someone alcohol when that person later went out and caused a serious accident. 

    Some states will have specific rules about the degree of liability and the time period. This time period could be as short as 60 days, so it is in your best interests to communicate with a lawyer sooner rather than later. 

  • Do I Have to Go to Court?

    If you file a personal injury claim, it will start the legal process of a court case. However, at any point during the case, it can be resolved by talking through negotiations outside of court hearings. 

    Many personal injury cases, including plenty of those handled by Morgan & Morgan personal injury lawyers, resolve in settlement negotiations or conversations outside of court, rather than in actual hearings and trials. Your lawyer will do everything possible to explore avenues for resolution but will also keep in mind the best way to protect your interests.

    In many cases, it is in the best interest of the victim for all possible avenues of dispute resolution to be explored at the outside of their case, since you may be able to get a solution and settlement much faster than waiting for your case to be scheduled in court. However, there are also many situations in which the other side does not believe the severity of your injuries or is alleging that you are partly or fully responsible for the accident, which could compromise your ability to achieve a reasonable settlement out of court. 

  • Morgan & Morgan Can Help

    At Morgan & Morgan, we have continued our fight For the People for over 35 years. We make sure our clients understand their legal rights and any pertinent details, such as the statute of limitations for car accident cases, before moving forward with a case. 

    If you have been injured due to no fault of your own, let us help you. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation case evaluation to learn more.

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