Any kind of accident, from a slip-and-fall to a car crash, can cause devastating and debilitating injuries. In the aftermath of these injuries, many accident victims do not know what they are supposed to do to protect their legal and financial rights, nor how long they have to do whatever they are supposed to do.
In this blog post, we delve into how long you have to file a legal claim for damages following an accident, and how hiring an experienced personal injury attorney can ensure you meet critical deadlines while building the strongest possible case.
About the Statute of Limitations
A state law called a statute of limitations limits the amount of time a person has to take legal action seeking damages for injuries and losses suffered in an accident. The statute of limitations is an expiration date for a legal claim. When the statute expires, the injured person loses the right to take legal action.
The statute of limitations for a personal injury claim varies from state to state, and with the circumstances of the person’s injury.
For example, Nevada’s statute of limitations sets the following deadlines:
- Two years for a personal injury claim;
- Two years for a wrongful death claim;
- Two years for a medical malpractice claim (generally);
- Three years for a property damage claim; and
- Four years for a product liability claim.
In general, the statute of limitations begins running the moment a person suffers an injury in an accident. However, exceptions, some of them quite complicated, could stop the clock from running (which lawyers call tolling the statute of limitations), or could change the deadline.
Victims of any accident that causes a personal injury should always consult an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible after an accident. Talking to a lawyer immediately helps to protect the injured person against the danger of losing legal rights if the statute of limitations expires.
The Statute of Limitations Is an Expiration Date, Not a Target Date
Regardless of how many years an injured person has under the statute of limitations to take legal action for damages, that person should never treat the statute of limitations as a reason to procrastinate in seeking legal help.
Why? The passage of time, alone, can weaken a case.
The longer you wait to take legal action, the more likely:
- Your and others’ memories of the incident will fade;
- Optimal medical care in a timely manner is not met;
- Important evidence will go missing or get thrown away; and
- Defense lawyers and insurance companies will question the strength and seriousness of your claim.
In other words, never treat the statute of limitations as the target date for taking action. Instead, give yourself and your lawyer ample time to build a strong case by seeking legal help right away after you get injured.
A Liability Insurance Company May Try to Run out the Clock
Many people assume that following an accident caused by someone else’s wrongful actions, they can simply submit a claim to the at-fault party’s insurance company and that they will receive a check in the mail for their damages.
However, that is not how things work with personal injury claims. Unlike submitting a claim to your own insurance company for, say, property damage, seeking money from someone else’s liability insurance policy amounts to threatening, and often taking, legal action. You are not the liability insurance company’s customer, and the company has every reason to resist paying you the money you want.
An insurance company might try to undercut your claim by not responding, hoping the statute of limitations expires before you file suit against its policyholder.
Do not try to fight back against that tactic on your own. In fact, do not try to deal with an at-fault party’s insurance company directly at all.
Instead, let an experienced personal injury lawyer handle all communications and negotiations with the at-fault party’s liability insurance company. Leaving your claim against a liability insurance company in the hands of a trusted lawyer gives you the best possible chance of forcing that insurance company to pay you the damages you deserve.
Give Your Lawyer Time to Investigate
Another vital consideration to factor: the case investigation process. Experienced personal injury attorneys know how critical it is to collect evidence to support your claim for damages. Evidence proves a case. The more of it you have, and the higher its quality, the better your claim’s chances of a favorable financial outcome.
To obtain evidence, your attorney will undoubtedly need skill and experience. However, time is perhaps the most important factor in conducting a thorough and careful investigation. It can take time to track down and secure critical evidence such as medical records, electronic data, accident reports, witness testimony, and video footage. Plus, as time passes, the risk increases of evidence going missing.
Ideally, a lawyer wants to start investigating and collecting evidence immediately, and wants enough time to track everything down. You can give your lawyer that opportunity by reaching out as soon as possible to get the ball rolling on your legal claim.
Act Now to Protect Your Legal Rights and Financial Future
We understand that as a personal injury victim, you have a lot on your plate. You may feel overwhelmed by the idea of talking to a lawyer.
Talking to an experienced personal injury lawyer about your accident and injuries can make your life easier by giving you the best opportunity to secure the full amount of compensation you deserve.
Do not risk losing your valuable legal rights by waiting to seek the legal help you need. Contact an experienced personal injury attorney today for a free, confidential, no-obligation case consultation.