Time to Bring a Car Accident Case: Understanding Statute of Limitations

Statute of Limitations

When you have been injured in a car accident, slip and fall, motorcycle accident or any other incident that qualifies as a personal injury, you may be entitled to filing a compensation claim against the negligent party.

The compensation amount you receive comes in handy since it can help you cover the cost of your medical bills, lost income, and emotional trauma. The money can also provide you with reimbursement for any property damage you might have incurred as a result of the accident.

Some car accident claims such as reckless driving and DUI may even attract punitive damages for emotional stress and so on.

However, for you to stand a chance of being compensated for damages suffered in a car accident, you must file your claim within a certain time limit stipulated in your state’s statute of limitations.

The specific time limit prescribed by each state ranges from one year to six years. Read on to find out everything you need to know.

Statute of Limitations Overview

A statute of limitations is basically a state law that specifies how long you have to bring a car accident lawsuit against the at-fault driver.

Generally, the time limit can range anywhere from one year to six years, depending on where you live, but it is mostly two years in many states.

The countdown usually starts from the date the accident occurred, but there may be several exceptions to the general rule depending on your state and the type of claim you want to file. These exceptions can either lengthen or shorten the time limit.

Some court rulings may also affect how the statute of limitations is interpreted in your case. The most important thing you need to keep in mind is that different states impose different time limits for filing a car accident lawsuit.

When Do the Time Limits Begin?

Typically, the time limit for filing your car accident lawsuit begins from the date of the accident. In other words, the statute of limitations is fully enforceable from the exact date and time the accident occurred.

The assumption is that you discovered the injuries suffered on the same day or a few days/weeks later after seeing a doctor.

For instance, if you were involved in a car accident in Florida on January 1st 2022, and you have four years to file your car accident lawsuit against the at-fault driver, then you have until January 1st 2026, to do so.

statute of limitations

You cannot file a claim once the statute of limitations time limit that applies to your car accident case has run out. In some rare cases, the statutory “clock” might have started running later than usual, or some special circumstances unique to your case might have posed the running of the clock.

Below are some situations that could potentially “extend” your statute of limitations time limit.

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The “Discovery Rule” and the Statute of Limitations

In some states, the “discovery rule” may halt the running of the statute of limitations clock until the victim knows that they have suffered injuries due to the crash.

A good example in the personal injury space would be asbestos cases where mesothelioma or some other form of asbestos-linked illness doesn’t show up until decades after the victim’s exposure to the material that contained asbestos.

The same thing may apply to a car accident if some injuries linked to the accident start to manifest long after the expiry of the time limit specified in the statute of limitations.

However, it is good to note that even when the “discovery rule” applies to your case, there may be a larger deadline you can’t go beyond when filing a personal injury lawsuit.

For instance, your state may set a lawsuit-filing deadline of one year from the date of the accident or two years after the victim first discovers their injuries, whichever is later. In such a case, you can’t file a claim after the four-year period elapses.

Injured Minors

For car accident victims who were minors at the time of the incident, most states allow the minor to reach the age of 18 years before the statute of limitations clock starts running.

car accident lawsuit

So, if you are injured in a car accident as a 14-year-old passenger in California, where the personal injury statute of limitation is two years, you have until your 20th birthday to file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver.

What Is the Statute of Limitations in My State?

As mentioned earlier, every state in the country has enacted its own statute of limitations requiring a personal injury lawsuit to be filed in court within a specified time frame. The specific time limit prescribed by each state is outlined in the table below:

StateStatute of Limitations
Alabama2 years
Alaska2 years
Arizona2 years
Arkansas3 years
California2 years
Colorado2 years
Connecticut2 years
Delaware2 years
District of Columbia (D.C.)3 years
Florida4 years
Georgia2 years
Hawaii2 years
Idaho2 years
Illinois2 years
Indiana2 years
Iowa2 years
Kansas2 years
Kentucky1 year
Louisiana1 year
Maine6 years
Maryland3 years
Massachusetts3 years
Michigan3 years
Minnesota2 years
Mississippi3 years
Missouri5 years
Montana3 years
Nebraska4 years
Nevada2 years
New Hampshire3 years
New Jersey2 years
New Mexico3 years
New York3 years
North Carolina3 years
North Dakota6 years (2 in wrongful death)
Ohio2 years
Oklahoma2 years
Oregon2 years
Pennsylvania2 years
Rhode Island3 years
South Carolina3 years
South Dakota3 years
Tennessee1 year
Texas2 years
Utah4 years
Vermont3 years
Virginia2 years
Washington3 years
West Virginia2 years
Wisconsin3 years
Wyoming4 years

What Are the Other Ways to Extend the Statute of Limitations?

There are other ways to extend the statute of limitation if you think you are disadvantaged. For instance, if the defendant left the state for a given period after causing the accident that led to your injuries, then you can use it to extend the time limit.

So, if the time limit for filing a car accident lawsuit in your state is two years, but the defendant was out of state for one year after the auto accident, the statute of limitations in your case may be extended by one year.

Do You Still Have Questions About the Statute of Limitations? Speak to an Attorney!

Have you sustained injuries in a car accident and have not exceeded the time limit for filing a car accident lawsuit in your state? You can still recover damages.

In some cases, the statute of limitations may not be clear, but an experienced car accident attorney can help you determine if you are still eligible for compensation.

To learn more about the personal injury statute of limitations in your state, be sure to discuss your case with a car accident lawyer near you!

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