How Long After an Accident Can You Claim Injury?

April 10, 2024 | By Steffens Law Accident Injury Lawyers
How Long After an Accident Can You Claim Injury?

Nothing is easy after an accident with injuries, such as an auto accident. You may have a damaged vehicle, severe injuries, lost earnings, and pain and suffering. For many injured people, an accident with injuries and damages is an ordeal that lasts months or even years.

In addition to all of the issues surrounding your injuries, you have to figure out the insurance claims and legal processes. Accidents lead to expensive injuries; if another person’s negligence caused the accident, you shouldn’t have to foot the bill. In every state, a person injured by someone’s negligence is entitled to file a claim or lawsuit to “be made whole.” This means receiving fair compensation for your losses, usually medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering.

Receiving just compensation means filing a personal injury claim or lawsuit, but you only have a limited time to act. You may forfeit the right to compensation if you don’t file the claim on time. Learn in this article how long you have to file a personal injury claim.

Ask a personal injury attorney in your community if you have legal questions about your case. They have experience with filing personal injury claims for all types of accidents, including car crashes, slip and fall incidents, work-related accidents, and more. The attorney will also understand the statute of limitations for personal injury claims in your state. They will ensure that your claim or lawsuit is filed within time constraints.

Schedule a Free Consultation

What Is A Statute Of Limitations?

Statute Of Limitations.

A statute of limitations is a time limit set by each state, giving the injured party a certain amount of time to file a claim. If the statute of limitations expires before you file your claim or lawsuit, you may not receive compensation for your losses.

Many injured parties don’t understand that a statute of limitations applies to personal injury claims. The statute of limitations also applies to many criminal cases, but it is just as crucial for filing a personal injury lawsuit.

Every state has different rules for the statute of limitations for personal injury claims. Ensure you understand the statute of limitations in your state when you have suffered an injury because of someone’s negligence.

Why Do States Have A Statute Of Limitations?

There are several reasons that states have these time limits in place. First, parties can lose critical case evidence, and memories can fade as too much time passes. The statute of limitations ensures that personal injury claims begin when evidence is available and strong enough to support or defend a claim. That way, all parties to the claim can access vital information to support their side.

Second, society does not consider it fair for people to indefinitely face the possibility of a lawsuit for something that happened years ago. Imagine causing a car accident a decade ago, and suddenly, you are served notice that you are being sued for injuries from that incident. It will be challenging to defend yourself, but you have already moved on from the accident, might have changed auto insurers, and more.

The statute of limitations weighs the plaintiff’s rights to seek justice with a defendant’s rights to be free from the indefinite threat of litigation. This becomes a very important aspect of litigation for an accident victim to consider.

Statute Of Limitations For Personal Injury Claims Differ By State

State laws dictate how long you have to file each type of lawsuit in civil courts within that state, and the time limits for personal injury cases can vary considerably across state lines.

For example, the statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits in Nebraska is four years from the date of the injury. In the neighboring states of Iowa and Kansas, the statute of limitations is only two years. This means that if two accidents happened only a few miles apart, but across state lines, the deadlines for filing lawsuits will be very different.

Further, most states have different time limits if you want to sue a government agency. For example, if you are hit by a car by someone who works for the state government, and the person was working at the time of the accident. Depending on the state, you may have only a few months or a year to provide initial notice that you intend to file the claim.

Because statutes of limitations and other time limits can vary so widely, never assume you know what applies to your case. Consult an accident lawyer who can assess how long you have to claim injury in your case.

When Does The Statute Of Limitations Clock Start To Run? 

The Statute Of Limitations Clock Start To Run

Usually, the clock for the statute of limitations starts on the day that the accident occurred that harmed you. For example, if you suffered an injury in a car crash in Nebraska on December 5, 2022, you must file a claim four years from the accident date. It generally means you will have until December 5, 2026, to take legal action in civil court.

However, states have exceptions to these rules and time limits. For example, you might not know immediately that you suffered a spinal disc injury in a car accident. Perhaps you were unaware of the problem until a year after the accident. If you did not identify your injuries immediately, the statute of limitations clock will usually begin on the day you learned about the injury.

The statute of limitations for legal action may differ if a child was hurt in the accident. Generally, the clock for the statute of limitations does not start until the child turns 18.

Another possible exception is if the liable party for the accident has left the state. Let’s say that you suffered an injury in a car crash and plan to file a lawsuit against the liable driver. But the driver left the state. In this situation, the law may let the statute of limitations be “tolled” for the time the party was out of the state. So, if the statute of limitations is four years to file a personal injury claim, and if the at-fault party moved to another state for a year, you typically have five years from the accident date to file your claim.

A skilled personal injury lawyer in your state can assist you with determining when the statute of limitations clock starts to run. They can help you file your claim or lawsuit before the time limit expires.

What To Do Before Filing A Personal Injury Claim

Remember there are many things you will probably have to do before filing a lawsuit in court. Before you consider a lawsuit, you will likely pursue an insurance claim with the at-fault party’s insurance company. This claim can take time, as you might go through several rounds of negotiations to try to reach an agreeable settlement offer.

Many cases settle through an insurance claim. A lawsuit becomes necessary when:

  • The insurance company refuses to accept liability
  • The insurance company wrongfully blames you for part of the accident
  • The insurance company refuses to offer enough to cover your losses
  • Your attorney believes you will be entitled to punitive damages due to the defendant’s egregious conduct, as punitive damages are only available in court
  • Your injury leads to a class action case

You should be considering the statute of limitations from the start, even if there is a chance your case ight settle with an insurer. There is always a possibility you might have to file a lawsuit.

Why Delaying Medical Treatment Can Affect Your Personal Injury Claim 

One of the most common things derailing many justified personal injury claims is delaying medical treatment. For example, you might not want to bother with seeking medical attention after a car crash. After all, you think you will be okay; it’s just that your back hurts a bit when you walk. Unfortunately, not getting prompt medical care for your back pain can cause severe issues with a subsequent claim.

Not seeing a doctor to check for injuries after an accident can mean that your injury isn’t documented until a lot of time has passed. Perhaps you don’t see a doctor for a sore back after a car crash. But months later, your back has gotten much worse. You can hardly get out of bed or care for yourself. Because you didn’t get immediate medical treatment, it can be harder for you to file a claim or lawsuit against the at-fault party. You may also have much less time to file a personal injury claim because you “should have known” that you suffered an injury from the accident long ago.

Getting prompt medical treatment after an accident with any possible injury is always wise. That way, your bases are covered if you have an injury. The injuries will be noted in your permanent medical record, and the doctor will state that they are related to the accident that just occurred. If you need to file a claim for damages later, the statute of limitations clock will start on the day the injuries were documented by your doctor. It will also ensure that the other party’s insurance company cannot deny the injuries are related to the accident.

Also, make sure that you follow your doctor’s instructions for treatments. The insurance company will likely question your claim if you do not follow your treatment plan. Even if your claim is filed well within the statute of limitations, you will likely get less money than you could have, and the claim could even be denied.

My Time Is Almost Up. Should I Accept The Settlement Offer? 

Accepting The Settlement Offer

Insurance companies for the at-fault party are not your friends. They almost always use time pressure to pay as little as possible for a claim. The insurance adjuster might want you to feel pressure to accept a small settlement before the statute of limitations expires on your case. Otherwise, you might not get any money at all. At least, that is what they want you to think.

If the statute of limitations is running out when filing a claim or lawsuit, speak to a personal injury attorney in your area immediately. As long as a claim is filed before the statute of limitations expires, you still can receive compensation. An experienced attorney can take emergency action to preserve your right to sue or file a claim in certain situations before the time limit expires.

That said, be aware that certain personal injury attorneys may not want to take on a case where the statute of limitations is almost expired. Taking a case at the last minute can make it harder to perform sufficient due diligence to know if it has merit. Attorneys typically want plenty of time to understand who was likely at fault and how the accident happened, among other case particulars. Thus, you will probably have an easier time finding a skilled attorney if you act well before the statute of limitations expires.

Should You Hire An Attorney For Your Personal Injury Claim? 

If you have injuries and want to receive fair compensation for your losses, taking action well within the statute of limitations for personal injuries is vital. Hiring a personal injury attorney to represent you is also critical.

Your attorney knows what your case is worth and how to prove that another party is liable for your losses. Your attorney also will understand how to deal with claims for reimbursement by your healthcare provider if you decide to file a claim against the other party.

People who try to handle their own personal injury claims end up with less money than they can have with an attorney. Your attorney will charge legal fees if you receive compensation, but you will still end up with more money than if you took action without a lawyer.

Speak To An Experienced Personal Injury Attorney Today

William V. Steffens, Personal Injury Lawyer
William V. Steffens, Personal Injury Attorney

Were you injured in an accident recently? You could have severe injuries, such as head trauma and broken bones, and be out of work and unable to pay your bills. If another person or entity injured you, filing a personal injury claim is possible. However, it is essential to act quickly; every state has a statute of limitations for filing personal injury claims. Time limits vary, but it can be as little as one year from the accident.

Speak to a personal injury attorney in your community today to ensure you can obtain compensation for your losses.