A car accident is almost always a traumatic experience. One moment you are waiting for a stoplight to turn green, and the next a violent collision that came out of nowhere sends you reeling. After an accident, it can be difficult to understand what comes next and the proper steps to take.
Complicating matters further, symptoms of a severe injury may not appear until days or weeks after the accident. And even still, some people dismiss these injuries as just a normal consequence of being involved in an accident. By the time they realize that the pain interferes with their quality of life, the clock has already expired on filing a personal injury claim.
While a personal injury claim helps car accident victims recover damages, it’s important to realize there are time limits on filing a claim. That is the topic the skilled attorneys at Benson & Bingham discuss in this blog post.
What We Mean by “Filing a Claim”
There are two kinds of “claims” you might “file” after a car accident leaves you injured: an “insurance claim” and a “legal claim” (a.k.a., a lawsuit). The two types of claims overlap and affect one another, but they are separate concepts.
Nevada law requires all drivers to carry a minimum vehicle liability insurance coverage of $25,000 in bodily injury per person, $50,000 in bodily injury per accident, and $20,000 in property damage (“25/50/20”). Insurance claims, whether against your own insurance policy or another party’s, help you pay for the initial expenses of a car accident.
But they frequently fall short of paying you every dollar you need to recover from your injuries. Serious injuries resulting from a car accident can quickly climb into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, or more for permanent or debilitating conditions. Plus, when your insurance company pays your claim, it shares your legal rights to seek compensation from the person or entity who harmed you (through a legal principle known as “subrogation”).
When someone else, such as the “other driver,” has legal liability to pay damages for your injuries (either directly to you or to reimburse your insurance company for money it has paid you), the second type of claim, a legal claim, comes into play. A lawyer helps you develop and file a legal claim in Nevada court. Perhaps confusingly, the prelude to filing that that legal claim may involve seeking compensation from the other driver’s liability insurance carrier.
But ultimately, the potential legal claim (or “lawsuit” or “personal injury claim”) against the other driver helps form the basis for that insurance company’s decision whether to “settle” with you or not.
How Long Do I Have to File a Legal Claim (a.k.a., a Lawsuit) for My Car Accident Injuries?
Nevada law imposes strict time limits on when you can take legal action to recover compensation for your car accident injuries. These deadlines are what is known as the “statute of limitations.” In Nevada, the statute of limitations for most personal injury lawsuits is two years (three years for property damage claims) from the date of injury.
In Nevada, car accident victims have two years from the date of their car accident, in most cases, to file a legal claim for damages. We repeat: you have two years from the date of your accident, and not (in most cases) from the date you discovered your injuries or decided you needed help recovering from them.
What happens if you wait longer than two years to take legal action for your car accident injuries? In most cases, your claim “expires” and you lose your rights to compensation forever. Missing the statute of limitations, in other words, spells the death of a legal claim. In all but the rarest of circumstances, you cannot revive your claim after that deadline passes.
Special rules in Nevada can affect the two year deadline for a car accident injury lawsuit. Some rules shorten it and some lengthen it—for example, an exception for negligence committed by government employees acting within the scope of their employment.
Under Nevada law, damages against public employees are capped at $100,000. Your attorney will examine the details of your case as well as potentially liable parties, and can help you understand how long you have to act. Speaking with an experienced Nevada car accident injury attorney as soon as possible is the best and safest way to make sure you do not miss time limits on filing your lawsuit.
The Benefits of Filing a Legal Claim Early
There are many benefits to filing a personal injury claim as soon as possible. Most obviously, the sooner you take legal action, the sooner you can hope to receive the compensation you deserve and need. But acting quickly also strengthens your claim, for the following reasons:
- Credibility: It doesn’t matter whether you toughed it through the pain or changed your mind about making a claim, the longer you wait to file a personal injury claim, the less believable you will seem to the people making the decisions about whether and how much money to pay you for your injuries. Acting quickly sends a clear signal that your accident caused your injury.
- Evidence: Evidence is one of the most important components of any car accident injury claim. As time goes by, that evidence has a way of disappearing. If there is physical evidence at the scene, that evidence can disappear the minute you drive away. If there is video footage of the accident, the owners of the footage may dispose of it within a certain time frame. Acting quickly gives you and your lawyer the best opportunity to gather and take advantage of evidence to support your claim.
- Witnesses: Eyewitnesses can provide crucial evidence in a lawsuit, but memories fade. Take a minute to think about an event you witnessed six months ago. How about a year ago? Is your memory fresh? Can you remember the small details? The longer you wait to take legal action, the more likely it is that witnesses will forget critical facts that could make the difference in your case. Acting quickly gives you the best chance of hearing and preserving their recollections.
How Long Does It Take to Recover Damages?
After an injury, it’s natural to be concerned about how long it will take to receive the compensation you need. A wide variety of factors, some within your control and some not, affect how long it takes. Perhaps the single most important factors within your control are: (1) how soon you speak with an attorney; and (2) which attorney you choose for your car accident injury case. The sooner you act and the higher the quality of your attorney, the better the chance you will receive the compensation you need as quickly as possible in your case.
Acting quickly and choosing the best attorney available for your case also helps manage the factors that are not within your control, such as:
- The nature of your injuries. The more extensive your injuries and/or the more uncertain your recovery, the longer it can sometimes take to settle on an amount of money you deserve as damages.
- The issue of fault. Sometimes fault is clear. Sometimes it is not. If there is a dispute as to who is at fault for your car accident, resolving that dispute can eat up a significant amount of time.
- How many parties are involved. The more parties with potential legal liability for causing a car accident and/or your injuries, the more complicated and time-consuming a case can become.
- The parties’ willingness to settle. Sometimes, your lawyer and the representatives for the party or parties with legal liability can reach a resolution quickly, because liability is clear and the other parties make a reasonable settlement offer. Sometimes, however, the other parties decide to fight or to make unreasonable offers. In that case, the case can take longer to resolve, and may require going to trial.
In our experience, a car accident injury claim can take anywhere between weeks and years to resolve to our clients’ satisfaction. We understand that is not always what our clients want to hear, but our job is to give clear, sound, and straightforward advice, and to implement strategies that serve our clients’ interests. Talk to us about your goals for resolving your car accident claim.
Common Damages in a Personal Injury Claim
There is no easy way to calculate damages in a car accident case until an attorney can sit down and review the facts. In most cases, however, damages recoverable in a car accident injury lawsuit fall into two broad categories: economic (or special) damages and non-economic (or general) damages. Economic damages refer to fixed expenses. Non-economic damages consist of harm that doesn’t have a price tag on it. Specifically:
- Medical bills: Medical bills can add up quickly after an accident. Generally, these costs can be reimbursed dollar-for-dollar. This may include any care related to the accident including doctor visits, hospital stays, physical therapy, medical transport, and medication.
- Lost wages: Serious injuries can cause you to miss weeks or months from work. Even minor injuries like back strains can leave you out of work for days. Lost wages cover any time missed from work as a result of the accident. In the case of severe injury, you may be eligible for future wages of loss of earning capacity.
- Residential modifications: Injuries that lead to loss of mobility may make it difficult to get in and out of your house. Structural modifications to your home including ramps, handrails, and lifts, can make it easier for you to get around.
- Medical equipment: A personal injury claim can cover the cost of medical equipment associated with your injury. While it can cover usual equipment such as crutches, braces, or wheelchairs, it may also cover beds, TENS units, heating pads, and any other equipment a doctor feels will help with your recovery.
- Pain and suffering: Injuries can take a tremendous toll on your physical and mental wellbeing. Pain and suffering is meant to compensate you for the invisible costs of this pain.
- Loss of enjoyment: When you are unable to do things you enjoyed before the accident because of your injury, it can diminish your quality of life. When you are unable to participate in recreational activities, cook, or go for a run, you may have a claim for loss of enjoyment.
- Wrongful death: Sadly, car accidents claim thousands of lives every year. When a loved one dies in a motor vehicle accident, no amount of money can take away the loss. However, a wrongful death personal injury claim can cover any outstanding cost and help you cover any loss of income.
After a car accident, there is nothing more important than your recovery. Financial burdens imposed by the accident can make healing difficult. Filing a legal claim for damages constitutes an important step to removing that burden and giving you your life back. If you are a Nevada resident and have questions about the deadline for filing a legal claim after a car accident leaves you or a loved one injured, contact an experienced car accident attorney today. The sooner you act, the better the chances of recovering the compensation you deserve.
Benson & Bingham
626 S 10th St
Las Vegas, NV 89101