How Long Do I Have to File a Lawsuit After a Car Accident?
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A car accident can interrupt your life in innumerable ways. For instance, your car may be totaled, preventing you from getting to work. Or worse, you may have received life-altering injuries, which prevent you from enjoying life as you did before the accident. Despite the setbacks that may result from a car accident, remember that to receive the compensation you may be entitled to, you must file a claim within a certain amount of time.
If you or your loved one has been injured in a car accident, you may be entitled to compensation. Call Zinda Law Group at (800) 863-5312 for a free consultation with one of our experienced personal injury lawyers.
Statute of Limitations
Each state has what is called a statute of limitations or time limit to file a lawsuit. In Texas, you must file a personal injury lawsuit within two years of the date of the injury or accident. It is important to speak with an attorney to understand more about the legal time limits pertaining to your case because, as discussed below, you may be able to file a claim even after the time limit has expired.
Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations
In most cases where an individual files a personal injury lawsuit after two years have passed since the date of the accident, the person whom the individual sues will likely be able to dismiss the lawsuit by filing a motion to dismiss. The court will likely grant this motion to dismiss, and the individual will generally have no recourse. However, there are exceptions that will allow you to seek compensation after the statute of limitations has passed. Below is a list of some exceptions:
Victim Was a Minor at the Time of the Accident
If a victim was under the age of eighteen when he or she suffered injuries in a car accident, the statute of limitations does not activate until he or she turns eighteen. In other words, they don’t have to worry about the time limit until they turn 18.
Once the plaintiff turns eighteen, however, the statute of limitations will come into effect.
Mental or Physical Impairment
Some car accident victims may be physically or mentally impaired as a result of the accident.
For instance, a car accident victim may have fallen into a coma after a car crash. Since the individual is unable to file a suit in their current mental state, the statute of limitations will not apply to them.
Once they have recovered and are able to file the claim, the time limit will begin.
If the Party that Allegedly Caused the Accident Leaves Texas
A car accident claim involves at least two parties. So what happens if the party that allegedly caused the accident leaves Texas? In such cases, Texas courts will pause the statute of limitations until the party is found and back in Texas.
How to File a Lawsuit for a Car Accident
1. Call an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer
Filing a personal injury claim can be physically and mentally taxing.
Certainly, not every personal injury calls for a lawyer. If your injury is minor, for example, and you are not faced with burdensome medical bills, there is little that a personal injury lawyer could do. On the other hand, if you received severe injuries, you may want to consider hiring a lawyer in order to seek maximum compensation for the extent of your injuries.
Once you file a claim with a court, a judge may set a date for a trial, but also order you into mediation. Think of this process as almost like that of a marriage counselor trying to resolve a couple’s dispute. In mediation, a mediator will try to help you and your attorney reach an agreement with the other party.
If mediation fails to achieve an agreement between the parties, your case will move into the discovery or investigative phase. In this stage, your lawyer will collect all of the relevant documents and evidence necessary to file a claim. These include medical bills, witness statements, official reports, employment reports, etc. This stage is also where depositions will occur. Depositions are essentially interviews conducted by lawyers with people who have information pertinent to your case.
To make your lawyer’s job a bit easier, make sure to always document and retrieve evidence from the scene of the accident. Get the name, address, license number, plate number, and insurance information from all the drivers involved in the accident. If a driver that hit your car was working under an employer, be sure to get the employer’s insurance information as well. However, because some employers may require that their employees carry personal insurance, be sure to ask even an employee-driver for his or her personal insurance information.
Witness testimony is often vital in automobile accident cases. If there were witnesses to the accident, you should also get the names and contact information of the witnesses. If any of the witnesses took photographs or video recordings of the accident, ask them for copies. If you yourself have a camera at the scene of the accident, take some pictures of the scene.
4. Case Settlement
Case settlement may occur at the mediation phase, but case settlement may also occur during the discovery/investigative stage. If an insurance company sends you an offer, be sure to discuss the offer with your lawyer. Do not simply accept the offer as your lawyer may able to negotiate with the insurance company to get a more fair offer.
If after discovery, no settlement is reached, then your case will go to trial. Two types of trials exist: bench and jury. Bench trials are trials where the judge will hear the evidence, apply the laws applicable in your case, and make a ruling. In jury trials, the judge plays a lesser role. Though the judge will set which laws are applicable, the jury will decide the outcome.
Compensation for Car Accidents
Compensation is provided for economic losses and non-economic losses.
Economic losses include the following:
- past and future medical bills
- past and future lost wages
- damaged property
- past and future loss of earning capacity
Non-economic losses include the following:
- past and future emotional anguish
- loss of enjoyment of activities
Texas courts use what is called a modified comparative fault rule when it determines how much compensation a victim receives. What this rule states is that if an injured victim was 51% or more at fault for an accident, then he or she cannot recover compensation.
However, if the victim is found to be 50% or less at fault for the accident, his or her compensation will be reduced by the percentage of fault. For instance, if the jury awarded you $100,000 in compensation but also found that you were 50% at fault, then the actual amount of compensation you will receive will be $50,000.
How a jury determines how much fault the victim had in a car accident depends on several factors. For example, if the victim’s failure to wear a seatbelt led to more serious injuries than if he or she had fastened his or her seatbelt, then the jury will likely place more fault on the victim and accordingly reduce the victim’s compensation.
Tell the Car Accident Lawyers at Zinda Law Group About Your Accident
Lawyers at Zinda Law Group are experienced in dealing with car accident claims. Our accident attorneys have helped many clients with their personal injury claims. Like small firms, we strive to get to know all our clients and make them feel valued. Yet, like large law firms, we utilize cutting-edge technology, hire expert witnesses, and conduct effective investigations.
In addition, we operate on a no win no fee basis. This means that you will not have to pay a dime unless we win your case. Call (800) 863-5312 today for a free consultation!
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