How Long After a Car Accident Can You Sue?
Car accidents have a way of rattling even the most calm and collected among us. Whether a minor collision or a serious crash, car accidents can cause long-term damage to a person’s health, vehicle, and finances. In the wake of a wreck that resulted in injuries, it can be difficult for victims to prioritize on anything besides their health. By the time they recuperate, they are often left wondering if it is too late to file a lawsuit against the driver responsible for their crash.
Thankfully, most states allow plenty of time between the collision and the deadline for filing a car accident lawsuit. Victims considering suing the person who caused their accident should not, however, take this time for granted. Depending upon the circumstances surrounding the accident, lawsuits can take years to unfold. Keep reading for more information about how long victims have after a car accident to sue.
Find out the maximum compensation you could receive.
Find out the maximum compensation you could receive.
Understanding Statutes of Limitations
Every state has different statutes of limitations regarding car accidents and lawsuits. In most cases, though, victims have one to two years to seek legal action against the person responsible for their wreck. Victims concerned about the timeline and their eligibility to sue should contact a car accident lawyer in their area for guidance.
There are exceptions to every rule, and car accident statutes of limitations are no different. In many states, minors involved in car accidents have the right to pursue legal action until they turn 18 plus the statutory limit. For example, if an 11-year-old is injured in a car accident, they have seven years to file a lawsuit, plus an additional two years towards the statute of limitations. That 11-year-old can wait until he is 20 to seek legal action if he so chooses.
When an accident involves a public entity, like the municipal bus system, the victim may actually have a far more limited time to pursue legal action. The city may limit the victim’s window of opportunity to just three months when they are injured onboard a public bus. In some cases, victims are still recovering from their injuries when they discover they may no longer be eligible to file a lawsuit.
Of course, every state is different and has their own rules and exceptions to their statutes. Victims concerned about their eligibility should speak with an attorney in their area for advice.
To Sue Or To Settle
Many car accident victims believe filing a lawsuit is the quickest and safest path towards justice. The reality is that most car accident injury claims settle out of court. Most of the time, a lawsuit is never even filed. Insurance companies hoping to avoid lawsuits will often try to resolve car accident injury claims long before the victim considers seeking legal action.
Of course, that is not to say victims should never file a lawsuit against a negligent driver. There are real benefits to going to court and letting a judge or jury decide your fate. In cases where settlements may not be possible or advisable, seeking justice in a court of law may indeed be your best option. Victims weighing their options should speak with an attorney to determine their best course of action.
Many victims take legal action only when the insurance company ignores their demand letter or offers a car accident settlement amount that is far lower than expected. In other cases, the car accident victim feels they have suffered a true injustice and wish to hash things out in court. Whatever the motivations, victims should proceed with a lawsuit only with an experienced car accident lawyer by their side.
Step-by-Step Lawsuit Guide
When settling is not an option, victims should have their attorney draft a legal complaint to submit to the court. The other driver needs to be served this complaint via a process server or police officer. The driver will then typically have 20 days to reply to your complaint, though this time period varies from state to state.
Next comes the discovery process. The victim can request information from the defendant and vice versa. Written questions may be submitted and requests for documents may be made. In some cases, a deposition is scheduled. During a deposition, an attorney can interview a person involved in the incident and use their testimony in court.
A trial in a court of law is the final step in the process. A judge or jury may hear the case and make a decision on whether or not the defendant owes the victim compensation for their injuries. Far from the easy way out, car accident lawsuits can be expensive and time-consuming. In some cases, the victim does not get the outcome they anticipated and find themselves out many months worth of work and money.
The good news? So long as a verdict has not been delivered by a judge or jury, a victim and their attorney can decide instead to settle. Even if a lawsuit has been filed, the victim still has the right to settle if they receive an offer they find acceptable.
Michael Eisner earned his Juris Doctorate from George Washington University and practiced law in Illinois for 4 years before leaving to focus his energy on writing full time. He writes about the intersection of law and technology, and enjoys creating content that helps regular people understand how these topics can impact the lives of everyday people in ways they don’t realize.