Injured - The FindLaw Accident, Injury and Tort Law Blog

How Long After a Car Accident Can You Sue?

Under the law, you can sue the same day an accident happens. However, before filing a lawsuit, you should have a good idea about how the accident happened, who caused it, and how much money you are owed as a result of the accident. If there is no concern over missing a statute of limitation, it is better to wait until you have more information about your damages before filing in court. In injury cases, damages will continue to grow as medical costs are incurred, as medical costs are part of the damages.

In car accident cases involving property damage only, where there are no injuries, you can file a lawsuit as soon as you know how much it will cost to repair your car, but that may not be advisable if the at-fault driver has car insurance. Usually car insurance companies are willing to negotiate about the value of the repairs. If the driver that caused the accident is uninsured, you may wish to proceed more quickly by filing a lawsuit and having it served immediately after finding out the repair costs.

Statute of Limitations

In many states, there are different deadlines, or statutes of limitations, for cases involving injuries and those involving property damage only. While most states provide two years to file an injury suit, in some states it is only one year, and if the accident was caused by a government employee, it could be as short as sixty days to six months. Claims against government employees can have extremely short deadlines that need to be met in order to be able to even file a claim in court.

If you wait until the day after the statute of limitations to file your case, your case can be dismissed entirely and you will be left with no remedy. Know that in most states, you can still serve someone after the statute of limitations, but the case must have been filed before it expired.

How Soon Should You Sue?

When there are insurance companies involved, you or your attorney may wish to wait until after some preliminary negotiations to file suit. Filing suit costs more money and exposes you to a potential risk of loss as a jury will always be unpredictable. Waiting to file suit until negotiations have stalled between you and the insurance company is sometimes advisable. However, it is important to be mindful of the statute of limitations so that you don’t let it expire while negotiating. If you are up against the statute of limitations, you can file suit and not serve until after negotiations end (but be mindful of the court’s deadlines).

Also, it should be noted that suing too soon can prevent you from claiming the entire injury. Frequently, people injured in car accidents find that injuries return or become exacerbated over time. If you settle your claim too soon, you may find yourself seriously injured without any recourse left.

If there is no car insurance, it may be advisable to proceed as soon as possible against the responsible party. At very least, it is important to stay aware of the person’s whereabouts as serving the lawsuit on the party will be essential and may be difficult after one or two years.

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