Under personal injury laws, you can file a lawsuit the same day that the accident happens. But of course, before you file, it should be understood how the accident occurred, who caused it, what your injuries are and how much compensation you may deserve. Many people also attempt to settle the case with the liable party and/or their insurance company before filing a suit.
In a car accident with only property damage and there are no injuries, you may wish to file suit as soon as you know what the repairs will cost. In most cases, car insurance companies will negotiate about what the repairs cost. If the driver that caused the crash has no insurance, you might want to proceed faster to filing a lawsuit.
Every state has a statute of limitations that states how long after the accident you can file a personal injury lawsuit. The statute of limitations can differ for personal injury, wrongful death and property damages. In many states, you have two years from the date of the accident or the death of the person to file a lawsuit. However, if the person who caused the accident is a government employee, you may have as few as 60 days. Claims against government workers and entities have a very short statute of limitations. If you have been hurt by a government employee or organization, it is advised to speak to a personal injury attorney as soon as possible.
Remember, if you wait until close to the end of the statute of limitations to file, your attorney could have difficulty getting everything done in time. If a single piece of paperwork is not filed correctly, the statute of limitations could pass, and your opportunity to file a lawsuit could slip away. While you can usually serve someone notice of a lawsuit after the statute of limitations passes, it needs to have been filed before the statute expired.
As far as how soon you should sue, if there are insurance companies involved, you and your attorney might want to negotiate with them to determine if they will make a fair settlement offer. Filing a lawsuit is more time consuming and expensive, and there is a chance in the end you could come up with nothing. That is why it is often wise to wait until settlement negotiations break down before taking further action. If negotiations are not fruitful, you can inform the insurance company and/or defendant that you intend to file suit. This can get negotiations going again, especially if your personal injury attorney has a good reputation and results.
But do not allow the statute of limitations to expire during the negotiation process. If the statute of limitations is soon going to lapse, you can still file suit and not serve legal notice until after negotiations have completely broken down.
Also note that suing too early in the process can prevent you from claiming all of your accident injuries. Many people who are injured in car accidents discover that their injuries are worse than they initially thought or become chronic. If you settle too early, you could find you have very serious injuries and can no longer seek compensation.