When you are involved in an accident, things can move quickly. You might have to deal with major life changes and even time in the hospital. As your life changes, you might not prioritize getting to see a lawyer. You do not, however, have time to sit around and wait for a case to start. You only have a limited amount of time to bring a personal injury suit, and figuring out that time frame will have a huge impact on what you should do next. Personal injury cases are always time sensitive, so make sure that you consider the factors below before you see an attorney.
Understanding Statutes of Limitation
Most, but not all, legal cases can only be brought during a certain window. Commonly referred to as the statute of limitation, there is a time after which a case cannot be brought. These statutes generally exist to make sure that a prosecutor cannot wait to bring a case against a defendant years after the fact, but they apply just as equally to civil matters like personal injuries. When you are involved in any kind of accident, you will have to make sure that you move quickly.
Of course, it does make a certain kind of sense that you can’t bring a case years after the fact. Personal injury cases rely on a number of factors, not the least of which is the immediacy of the injury. It’s fairly easy to prove whether one party is responsible for the injuries caused to the other if the case is brought in a few months. It’s much harder to prove who is responsible if the case is brought years later. You’ll want to make sure that you are able to prove not just that the injury occurred, but that it occurred due to something that can be connected back to the other person.
In some ways, having to bring the case quickly actually helps you. If you wait too long, evidence will start to disappear simply due to time. If you want to show that someone ran a red light, it wouldn’t help you much after the red light was removed. If you want to prove that there was damage to your car, you won’t have much luck when you’ve long since sold the vehicle. You are dealing with something that is connected to a very specific moment in time.
Exceptions to the Rule
As with most things in the law, there’s always exceptions to the rule. While there is generally a statute of limitations that begins to toll immediately after the accident in which you were involved, this is not always true. In some cases, you actually won’t have to worry about the time limit until years later. These are rare occasions, though, and it’s important to stop and consider why they exist in the first place. If you fall under one of these exceptions, you’ll still have to move quickly – but you may have more time than you had originally imagined.
In most cases, the statute of limitations does not begin tolling on an injury until it is discovered. In the vast majority of personal injury cases, the injury is discovered during or shortly after the incident itself. In some cases, especially concerning medical malpractice, the injury won’t be discovered for months or years. In fact, getting to the root of the problem will often require quite a bit of pain and suffering, and it’s only fair that the party who has gone through all the pain should get a chance to see the person who has caused the problems in court.
Unfortunately, it’s very likely that the responsible party will still claim that the statute or limitations has tolled on the injury even if it’s a clear exception. This is just another situation in which a lawyer will be able to help you, as he or she will know the law and whether or not you can pursue your case. In fact, this will be the subject of one of the first discussions you have with any attorney, so you’ll know whether the incident you think is an exception really qualifies or if you have already missed your window.
You don’t have an infinite amount of time to bring a personal injury suit. As soon as your discover the injury, your time begins to run out. Always make sure that you contact an attorney shortly after you are injured. While you don’t necessarily have to bring a suit against the other party, you do want to reserve the right to do so. If you are able to speak to an attorney quickly, you will have a better chance to discuss your options and a better chance to figure out if you really want to bring a personal injury suit.