After a serious car accident, pursuing a lawsuit might be the furthest thing from the minds of individuals who suffered serious injuries, but it’s important to begin investigating possible legal options as soon as possible. For those injured on account of another motorist’s negligence or recklessness, a personal injury lawsuit could yield much more substantial compensation than a standard insurance claim payout, but time is of the essence. Every state has a deadline, known as the “statute of limitations” by which certain types of lawsuits must be filed.
The statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits varies by state and can be as long as six years from the date of incident or injury or as short as one year, but most states permit two or three years to file a claim, and this deadline can be extended in certain circumstances. Since some serious car accidents may involve latent injuries, such as concussions, which may take time to be diagnosed, many states have a “discovery of harm” rule in place, meaning that the clock starts ticking for filing a lawsuit from the moment a person discovers or should have reasonably discovered that he or she suffered harm. This standard can complicate matters, however. For instance, if a car accident victim experienced symptoms consistent with a severe concussion soon after the accident but refused to be examined by a physician until several months after the symptoms appeared, the discovery of harm rule may not be applied.
The statute of limitations may also be extended if the plaintiff was a minor when the accident occurred. As an example, if a teenager in Tennessee was injured on his 16th birthday, he will have three years rather than one year to file a suit since he will not turn 18 for two years, and the state’s statute of limitations is one year.
Special extensions may also apply for disabled or mentally ill patients or in cases in which the defendant leaves the state for an extended period of time. Since cases vary considerably in their circumstances, a personal injury lawyer could evaluate a case involving latent injuries, a minor or other special circumstances to see if it would be possible to extend the statute of limitations. If not, the lawyer could assist in ensuring that the lawsuit is filed in a timely manner.