Most people experience a car accident at some point in their lives. Most car accidents are minor, but when serious injuries or a fatality are involved, an accident can cause major setbacks for a person’s health, work, personal life, and finances.
Filing a personal injury claim for damages is one way for an injured accident victim to start getting their life back on track. However, time is of the essence in these types of cases because state law only allows claims to be filed after a certain period following an accident.
The exact amount of time you have to file an accident claim varies by state.
What is the statute of limitations?
The legal term for the time period allowed to an injury claim is called the “statute of limitations.” In Florida, the statute of limitations for filing a negligence lawsuit is four years from the date of the accident. The time for filing a claim is reduced to only two years in a wrongful death case. A wrongful death lawsuit is a claim filed by the surviving family members of the victim who died because of someone else’s negligence.
Cases involving minors
Time limits vary in different states and for different types of claims. For example, claims involving minors may be granted longer time limits since the minor may need to wait until they reach a certain age to file a lawsuit on his or her own behalf. If a minor is involved in a car accident, a legal guardian (typically the parents) may file a lawsuit on their child’s behalf.
Medical malpractice lawsuits
For some medical malpractice claims, there is a “discovery of harm” rule. This means that the statute of limitations does not begin to count down until the person filing the lawsuit knew they had suffered harm as a result of a medical provider’s negligence and knew of the nature of that harm.
For example, if a surgeon mistakenly leaves a surgical implement or bandage inside a patient during an operation, the patient may not realize until years later that the surgical mistake is the cause of subsequent medical problems. The delay in discovery must be reasonable under the circumstances.
What to do after an accident
It is important for a person interested in filing a car accident claim or personal injury lawsuit to speak to an attorney right away because important evidence may be lost if there is a significant delay. For example, witnesses listed in accident reports may change their contact number or relocate, making them more difficult to find if they need to be subpoenaed for court.
Additionally, it’s also important for accident victims to seek immediate medical treatment and continue to follow up with appointments according to the advice of their medical providers. Waiting too long to seek medical treatment or not following up with appointments may give insurance adjusters and insurance defense attorneys reason to argue that the injuries are not very serious, or they are not related to the accident.
Why contact a personal injury attorney
Drunk driving accidents and other types of harm may result in the at-fault person also being charged with a crime. Victims who were injured as a result of the accident may file a claim for compensation in civil court, regardless of whether the defendant is being charged in criminal court as well. An attorney experienced in handling accident cases may be able to argue that punitive damages should also be awarded to the plaintiff because the conduct of the defendant was especially reckless.
A personal injury attorney may be able to help clients minimize the stress experienced after an accident by ensuring that the victim’s legal rights are protected and that they receive fair compensation for damages suffered as a result.
Financial losses, also known as “special damages,” are those that can be calculated numerically, such as lost wages, medical bills and costs of rehabilitation. Non-economic damages, also known as general damages, are those that are more difficult to calculate, such as pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life.
When meeting with an attorney for the first time, bring any accident reports in your possession, any photos related to the accident, insurance information for themselves and the negligent driver, and a list of any medical providers you have seen for treatment.