How Long Do I Have to File a Lawsuit After a Car Accident?
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When you’re hurt in a car accident, you’re probably focused solely on trying to pay medical bills and recover. Personal injury victims may not be aware that their rights may be affected by the statute of limitations when attempting to seek legal compensation for their injuries.
The best way to recover after a car accident is by understanding your legal rights, as well as understanding the time limit you have to bring your lawsuit.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, call Zinda Law Group at (888) 659-9392 for a 100% free case evaluation with our car accident attorneys.
Legal Time Limits
The statute of limitations provides a deadline by which a car accident victim must file a lawsuit. Once this deadline passes, the victim is barred from bringing their legal claim in court and from being able to seek compensation for their injuries.
The applicable statute of limitations is based on the cause of action, the defendant’s identity, and the circumstances of the personal injury case.
Reasons for the Statute of Limitations
The main purpose for the statute of limitations is to ensure that lawsuits can be dealt with in a timely manner. Basically, if a person wants to file a lawsuit against another for an injury, they should pursue the lawsuit with reasonable diligence; meaning, file the lawsuit sooner rather than later.
Another justification for these laws is so that personal injury cases are brought forward during a time when there is still reliable information. The witnesses’ memories will be fresh, and evidentiary documents may be more readily available.
Additionally, courts will typically hear more cases that are based on recent events rather than be flooded with cases alleging events that occurred years ago. The statute of limitations also ensures that defendants do not have to worry about potential liability for acts committed a long time ago.
How Do I Meet the Statute of Limitations?
You meet the statute of limitations by filing your lawsuit by the deadline. Negotiating with the insurance company is not enough to beat or extend the time limit. Filing your summons and complaint in the right Colorado court of law is how you’ll meet the statute of limitations.
After filing your claim with the court, it doesn’t matter how long your case may take to resolve. You beat the statute of limitations as long as you file your claim at least the day before the time limit runs out.
Getting the claim filed is the most important thing. Once your case is underway, you will then have time to build the evidence and work towards resolving your claim.
What is the Time Limit for My Accident?
In Colorado, victims have 3 years from the date of the car accident to bring a legal claim. The statute of limitations that applies to car accident cases also applies to everyone who may have a case based on the events surrounding the accident. This includes drivers, passengers, bicyclists, and pedestrians.
For slip and fall, premises liability, toxic tort, and other non-auto accident related claims involving negligence, the statute of limitations in Colorado is 2 years.
When the defendant’s negligence results in the death of another, the victim’s estate may pursue a wrongful death claim on his or her behalf. The statute of limitations for these types of claims is two years.
However, if it is not discovered that the defendant’s negligence caused the wrongful death until later, then the statute of limitations begins to run once the discovery is made.
EXCEPTIONS TO THE STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS
While the statute of limitations is strictly adhered to by courts, there are certain exceptions that may entitle you to an extension of time to bring your claim:
When the Victim is a Minor
If the victim was a minor at the time of the accident (under 18 years of age), then the victim has until the time he or she reaches 18 years old, plus the number of years provided under the statute of limitations, to file their claim.
For a car accident, this would give a victim until their 21st birthday to file a lawsuit.
The Discovery Rule
In many cases, the victim may not be aware that they are injured, and it may not be reasonable for the victim to know this. The “discovery of harm” rule extends the deadline to file a claim in instances where an injured person had no knowledge of either:
- The injury itself; or
- The fact that the defendant’s negligence may have caused the injury.
The discovery rule allows the statute of limitations to run when the victim discovers the injury or when the injury should have reasonably been discovered.
In other situations, there may be instances when the victim cannot control circumstances that would prevent them from filing a lawsuit. In these situations, the time limit of the statute of limitations may temporarily stop until the circumstance no longer exists. This concept is known as the “tolling” of the statute of limitations.
Tolling may occur if the victim is not mentally competent after an injury to file a claim. If the victim lacks the mental capacity to understand their rights, the statute of limitations may be tolled until the victim’s competency is restored.
Tolling may also occur if the defendant is bankrupt. In this situation, filing a lawsuit would not work because there would be nothing to collect from the defendant. The statute of limitations is tolled until the defendant’s bankruptcy is resolved.
Claims Involving Multiple Legal Issues
Another exception to the statute of limitations is when your claim falls under two different legal areas, or causes of action.
For example, if you were in an auto accident that was caused by a defective product, you may have two potential claims – one for the defective product, and the other for the accident itself. The statute of limitations for products liability in Colorado is 2 years, and the statute of limitations for car accidents is 3 years; so, even if the 2-year mark for the products liability claim has passed, you may still be able to file a claim for the car accident.
These are just broad examples of different statute of limitations exceptions. There may be a number of other reasons for “tolling” to affect the statute of limitations. Delaying the filing of your claim can hurt your case from lost documentation to having your case thrown out altogether. That is why it is necessary to discuss your individual case with a car accident attorney.
HOW TO FILE A LAWSUIT AFTER A CAR ACCIDENT
If you were injured in a car accident, you may be wondering how contacting a lawyer can help you. In general, a car accident attorney can:
Communicate with the other driver’s insurer.
In any personal injury case, your attorney may maintain contact with the insurance adjustor. The adjustor has the pocketbook, and any experienced personal injury attorney knows that maintaining a good relationship with the adjustor is critical for the success of your claim.
Obtain evidence relating to liability of the other driver.
A lawyer might receive all accident reports in the case and speak with the officer who was at the scene of your accident, as well as any witnesses who may have been present.
Document your treatment for your car injury settlement.
Successfully documenting your treatment after a car accident is crucial to getting the best settlement possible. A personal injury attorney may help make sure that your documentation contains the following necessary documents:
- Date of your injury
- How the injury occurred
- Note any medication you must take
- Note any disfigurement or disability
- Note any ongoing and persistent pain management
- Potential for further injury or pain in the future
- Prognosis and length of treatment
Negotiate a fair settlement with the insurance adjustor or defense attorney.
A personal injury attorney is going to be far better at settling a car accident case than the average layperson. A lawyer will often understand how much your case is worth and can help conduct negotiations with the insurance company in order to help you seek the compensation you may be entitled to.
CALL THE CAR ACCIDENT LAWYERS AT ZINDA LAW GROUP
At Zinda Law Group, our auto accident attorneys have the experience and knowledge that has helped many injured victims seek compensation after suffering an injury from a motor vehicle accident. We have the knowledge and resources necessary to help you build the strongest case possible and to seek the maximum compensation you may be entitled to.
Our firm also believes that an injured victim should never have to worry about their ability to afford excellent legal representation. That is why we offer 100% free consultations, and why you will pay nothing unless we achieve a favorable settlement, judgment, or verdict for your personal injury claim. That’s our No Fee Guarantee.
Meetings with attorneys by appointment only.