Yes, you can still file a claim or lawsuit years after a car accident, but it depends on the circumstances. Insurance claims are up to the company and the insurance policy.
For lawsuits, you must file within the statute of limitations. A Dallas car accident attorney can go over which option works for you to obtain the best possible compensation. They can also advise you on the timelines and filing deadlines that apply to your case.
What Is a Statute of Limitations Deadline in a Car Accident Case?
The statute of limitations is the time limit or deadline for filing a personal injury lawsuit after a motor vehicle accident. This means you are taking legal action based on negligence—someone’s carelessness caused you injury, so they now owe you damages.
This is different from an insurance claim. How long you have to file an injury claim with an insurance company depends on the company and the circumstances. Generally, you should try to file it right away. The longer you wait, the more likely an auto insurance provider will deny your claim. To an insurer, delayed claims look like attempts to collect money when you aren’t recovering from an injury.
What Is the Statute of Limitations for Your Auto Crash?
The car accident filing deadline varies by state, so whether you can file a lawsuit depends on where the accident took place. For example, in Texas, you typically have two years from the accident date to sue the liable party for damages, according to Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 16.003.
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Can You File a Car Accident Lawsuit After the Statute of Limitations?
You can, but only under certain circumstances. While the statute of limitations is a strict rule, the law also recognizes that real life is full of exceptions. The following are a few instances in which you could toll or delay the deadline until you can pursue legal action.
Never assume that these exceptions apply to you, even if they sound like they fit your case or circumstances. You can check with a personal injury lawyer to see if you qualify. You might be able to file a claim if the car accident occurred years ago:
If You Had Incapacitating Injuries
Some accidents cause such catastrophic injuries, making it physically or mentally difficult for accident victims to file or pursue an injury lawsuit. Examples include:
- Being in a coma or vegetative state
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
- Spinal cord injuries (SCIs)
If your recovery period was extensive, you could file a lawsuit for a car accident that happened years ago.
If You Were a Minor
Someone under the age of 18 who suffered injuries in an accident can have their case tolled until they are an adult. If this happened to you, you could file a lawsuit years later to pursue damages.
If a Hit-and-Run Driver Hit You
It wouldn’t be fair to you to have your time to file a case ticking away while you still don’t even know who hit you. A hit-and-run accident can provide the grounds for tolling the deadline until authorities can identify the driver.
If You Can’t Find the Liable Party
Like a hit-and-run, you may have trouble locating the liable party before you can file legal action against them, even if you know who they are. They might not have left the accident scene then, but some people may decide to flee later. If this happened to you, it’s possible to delay the countdown on the statute of limitations until authorities find the person.
You Could File Years After an Accident, Depending on the At-Fault Party in Your Case
In some cases, tolling isn’t the only option for filing a lawsuit long after an accident. Some circumstances have different statutes of limitations than the one for personal injury.
Did your seat belt fail when another car hit you, worsening your injuries? Did your accident stem from faulty brakes or a tire blowout? These are situations in which a product liability attorney can file a lawsuit for you, which can have different filing requirements. In Texas, for example, you could have either two years from the accident date or two years from the date the product liability was discovered.
Like product liability, wrongful death filing deadlines differ from personal injury deadlines—the statute of limitations generally starts when your loved one dies, not when they were initially hurt. In cases where someone ultimately succumbs to injuries years later, you might be able to file a wrongful death claim or lawsuit on their behalf.
Even if the personal injury statute of limitations period expired and you cannot file a lawsuit against the negligent party that caused your accident, you might have had your injuries worsened or complicated after receiving substandard medical care. If so, you can file a medical malpractice claim or lawsuit years later upon discovering the problem. Examples include surgical mistakes or misdiagnoses.
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Why Do Car Accident Lawsuits Have a Filing Deadline?
It can feel unfair that you only have so much time to file a claim or lawsuit following a car accident, but the statute of limitations is in place for several reasons:
- Protecting evidence: Having a deadline prompts parties to act quickly to preserve evidence, such as witness testimony, which can fade with time.
- Preventing frivolous lawsuits: Statutes of limitations can eliminate people who try to take legal action years later without merit.
- Encouraging negotiation: If a possible court case is hanging over them, insurers and liable parties are sometimes open to settling a case.
- Allowing time for investigation: The timeline is supposed to be not too long and not too short, keeping vital evidence from getting lost while also allowing you to get to the bottom of what happened.
- Giving you a chance to heal: The time before the filing deadline is also reserved for your medical recovery. It also gives your legal team a better idea of what damages you should recover.
In other words, the statute of limitations is time you can use, not just an arbitrary deadline designed to bar you from compensation.
Consult a Car Accident Lawyer to Learn If You Can Take Legal Action After a Crash
The auto accident attorneys at Loncar Lyon Jenkins want to use the time you have left before your case’s deadline, so contact us today if you were hurt in a crash.
If you want to know if you can still file a claim for a car accident that occurred years ago, or if you are concerned your case’s statute of limitations deadline has expired, you can still get free information during a free consultation. We might be able to explore other avenues for recovering damages. Call now.