How Long Do I Have To File a Lawsuit After a Car Accident?
Your expediency can make the difference between receiving compensation for your injuries and having to pay for everything yourself out of pocket. When someone else causes your car accident, the law allows you to file a lawsuit against the at-fault party for damages, but there is a limited window of time during which you can file your case.
Thus, it is in your best interests to consult with a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after a car accident. Our law firm is here to help. Phillips Law Group has been serving the residents of Arizona since 1993 and has helped clients recover over $1 billion in damages.
What Is the Statute of Limitations for a Car Accident Lawsuit?
States mandate the laws that govern car accident lawsuits. That means each state chooses its statute of limitations. Most states allow you two years to file, starting from the date of your accident. Should you miss that deadline, your case will likely be dismissed.
The sooner you file a claim and get started on the process, the better. Insurance companies sometimes use bad faith tactics to delay payment until the statute of limitations runs out, and you miss the opportunity to sue.
What is the Deadline for Car Accident Cases?
How long you have to file a lawsuit after a car accident depends on the laws in the state where your accident occurred. In Arizona, there is a 2-year statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit for an injury sustained in a motor vehicle accident. This means that you have 2 years from the date of the accident to sue the at-fault driver.
While two years might seem like a long time, you still shouldn’t delay in contacting a personal injury attorney soon after your car accident. The sooner you hire a law firm to represent you, the faster your lawyer can get started gathering evidence and filing all necessary documents.
Also, keep in mind that the statute of limitations may differ depending on who you are suing. Sometimes, you may have less than two years to file a lawsuit, such as when you are suing the city, county, or state; the statute of limitations is much less in some locations. For example, you must file a lawsuit within 180 days against a public entity, public school, or public employee in Arizona.
When Should You File a Lawsuit Following a Car Accident?
You likely have a valid claim if you suffered damages to your property or body due to the other driver’s negligence. However, a few ways you can determine if you should file a lawsuit include the following:
- You suffered severe injuries resulting in significant financial and personal losses.
- You lost a loved one in a car accident.
- The accident and injuries drastically impact your quality of life.
- You can no longer produce a sufficient income because of a temporary or permanent disability caused by your injuries.
If any of these scenarios are true for you, you may benefit from speaking to an attorney about your case and getting advice on your options moving forward.
What Is the Process for Filing a Lawsuit After a Car Accident?
The first step in seeking compensation after a car accident is to file an insurance claim. Unfortunately, an insurance adjuster rarely agrees to a claim without negotiations, and in cases with extensive damages, you will likely need to fight for a fair settlement.
If you decide to file a lawsuit, the process involves five general steps:
- File an official petition or complaint with the civil court. This requires filling out a document detailing the accident, the damages you claim, and your reason for filing.
- The defendant receives notice of the complaint. Serving the defendant allows them to read the complaint against them and begin to build a defense. The requirements for serving notice of a civil claim varies based on jurisdiction.
- Receive an answer from the defendant. Once the defendant has been served, they will reply to your claim. They may deny the allegations or admit fault.
- Exchange information in a process called discovery. Both sides must present any evidence collected to the other side so that everyone has the relevant facts in the case. This may include depositions.
- Go to trial. Both sides finally present their cases in court before the judge or jury and await a decision.
The above is a broad explanation of a much more complex process. Additionally, most personal injury cases do not even make it to court. The negotiation process can begin at any stage in the process of a lawsuit, and you may reach a settlement at any point during that time.
What Should You Do Immediately After a Car Accident?
What you do in the immediate aftermath of a car accident may profoundly impact your ability to file a claim or lawsuit. More importantly, making the right choices protects your health and well-being. Of course, the circumstances surrounding every car accident are different, but in general, you could benefit from following these steps after a collision:
- Check for injuries. Assess yourself for any visible injuries, and be mindful of how you feel as you slowly move. If you have passengers, make sure they are okay as well.
- Contact emergency medical services. If anyone is severely injured and needs the help of emergency medical services, call 911 and remain in place until the paramedics arrive.
- Move away from danger. If the collision occurred in a high-traffic area, you might be in danger if you remain in place. Move to the side of the road if you are physically able.
- Call the police. Refrain from speaking to anyone about the details of the accident while you wait for the police. The police station may not dispatch officers for a minor car accident with little damage and no personal injuries in some locations. However, you still have the option to file a report online or at the station.
- Document the scene. The most effective documentation method is video. If you have a smartphone, record a video and vocalize what happened as you record. Include the vehicles, the surrounding area, and any visible bodily injuries.
- See a doctor. If you do not need emergency medical services, you should still see a physician soon after the accident to check for possible internal injuries and get an official medical record.
- Contact a car accident attorney. Personal injury attorneys specializing in car accidents often offer a free consultation, sometimes over the phone. They may offer advice right away that could support your claim.
The primary concern following an accident is your health. Even if you need immediate medical attention and cannot document evidence yourself, the police conduct an investigation, and you have access to that report. Additionally, you can hire an attorney who will conduct another investigation, independent of the police, and get the evidence you need to file a feasible lawsuit.
What Are the Damages You May Collect?
Damages are the losses that you sustained because of your accident. They have monetary value and are often recoverable in a lawsuit. The amount and type of damages your recover depends on the severity of the accident and your injuries, but there are two categories, compensatory and punitive. Even minor car accidents may result in damages.
Compensatory damages include economic and non-economic losses. An award for compensatory damages should replace those losses as much as possible. Examples include:
- Cost of medical expenses, including hospital visits, doctor visits, medications, and long-term treatments
- Lost income, including any future lost wages and the loss of earning capability
- Property damage, either repair or replacement
- Pain and suffering, including emotional distress and mental anguish
- Loss of the ability to find enjoyment in life
- Loss of consortium
- Disfigurement or disability
While rare, sometimes, you may receive a payment for punitive damages. This type of award does not place anything lost. Instead, punitive damages seek to punish the defendant for particularly terrible behavior and keep them from repeating it in the future.
Statute of Limitations When Filing a Wrongful Death Car Accident Lawsuit
If you have suffered the tragic loss of a loved one in a car accident, the legal team at Phillips Law Group extends our sincere condolences to you. If you intend to pursue damages on behalf of your deceased loved one, you could be eligible for a different type of lawsuit. Instead of a personal injury lawsuit, we could help you sue for wrongful death.
There is a separate statute of limitations for wrongful death cases. In Arizona, a wrongful death suit must be filed within 2 years of the person’s death.
Again, failure to file within the allowed statute of limitations will likely result in the court refusing to hear your case and your lawsuit being dismissed. You may be left unable to pursue compensation for your loved one’s death. Swift action is essential.
How Can a Car Accident Attorney Help You?
With limited time to file a car accident lawsuit, you have little room for error in the filing process. An experienced car accident attorney knows the bad faith tactics that insurance companies sometimes use to avoid paying large, valid claims.
The qualified attorneys at Phillips Law Group have decades of experience fighting for the injured and recovering fair verdicts and settlements. We relieve the burden of dealing with insurance providers and represent you with objectivity and professionalism.
We also know the financial burden that often follows a car accident. For that reason, we offer a free case evaluation and work on a contingency fee basis, which means that we secure compensation for you.
Jasmine helped me so so much I want to thank her ! And also Aaron , i was always scared after an accident , knowing I would have to deal with lawyers but not here . Luckily I’ve only been in 3 accidents but this time it was fast and easy . And i received all the treatments I needed to help me recover ! Thank you Jasmine and Aaron!
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