After a car crash, injured people often face many challenges, including medical expenses, property damage, and emotional distress. The statute of limitations sets a time limit within which an individual must file a lawsuit after a crash. Reach out an experienced San Jose car accident attorney for legal guidance and help.
Exceptions to the Statute of LimitationsExceptions and various nuances exist within the statute of limitations for car crashes. Depending on the state and the circumstances surrounding the crash, the statute of limitations may change based on the following:
Discovery RuleThe discovery rule typically applies when injuries may not immediately manifest after an incident. The timeline may commence when you discover or should have reasonably discovered the injury.
MinorsFor minor children (under 18), the statute of limitations is usually paused, also known as tolled, until they reach 18. Afterward, they have the standard state law deadline to file a lawsuit - until their 20th birthday in California.
Government EntitiesSeeking compensation from a government entity entails different rules and shorter timelines. In California, you need to provide notice of your claim to the government entity within only six months of the incident.
Wrongful DeathSuppose a car crash claim gives rise to a wrongful death action. In that case, the statute of limitations typically begins to run on the date of the individual's passing, not the date of the car crash (unless they are the same date). However, this timeframe can vary based on circumstances, necessitating legal counsel for precise deadlines. No matter the specifics of your injuries or the car crash you were involved in, an experienced and reputable car crash attorney can pursue the compensation you deserve. Your attorney can tell you the state's SOL laws and if exceptions or tolling of the clock apply in your case.
The Purpose of the Statute of LimitationsThe personal injury statute of limitations serves crucial purposes in the legal system, including:
- Preserving evidence: This legal time frame ensures that lawsuits begin while evidence is fresh and reliable, preventing deterioration, loss, or alteration over time. This upholds the integrity of evidence for a fair legal process.
- Protecting defendants: It shields at-fault parties from facing lawsuits for events that occurred long ago. Allowing claims after a significant period of time can lead to unfair surprises and difficulties in mounting a defense.
- Judicial efficiency: Providing a clear timeframe for filing lawsuits promotes efficient case management, preventing cases from being brought forward long after the events in question.
- Closure and finality: Statutes of limitations offer a sense of closure for both plaintiffs (injured parties) and defendants (at-fault parties). Once the specified period passes, individuals can move on without the constant threat of potential legal action.
- Encouraging timely resolution: Setting a time limit motivates prompt legal action leading to quicker dispute resolution and a more efficient legal process.
- Preserving legal rights: It ensures individuals don't delay seeking redress indefinitely, safeguarding the legal rights of all parties involved.
- Balancing interests: The statute of limitations strikes a balance between plaintiffs seeking compensation and defendants' rights to defend themselves. It prevents undue delays in filing claims while allowing defendants to anticipate and prepare for potential legal actions reasonably.
What Happens if You Don't File Your Claim Within the Statute of Limitations?Failing to meet the personal injury statute of limitations for a motor vehicle collision can have serious repercussions, potentially jeopardizing your ability to seek rightful compensation. Understanding the intricacies of these limitations is paramount to protecting your legal rights. Without the guidance of a seasoned car crash attorney, relying on rare exceptions, such as cases involving minors or injuries that are not immediately apparent, can leave you vulnerable to losing your claim. If you miss the personal injury statute of limitations after a car crash, you may experience significant setbacks, including:
- Barred lawsuit: Exceeding the deadline leads to forfeiting the right to file a personal injury lawsuit after a car crash. The court is likely to dismiss your case, allowing the at-fault party to exploit this as a valid defense.
- Inability to seek compensation: Without a lawsuit, avenues to pursue compensation for medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, and other damages become severely limited, leaving you grappling with the financial aftermath.
- Loss of crucial evidence: Over time, evidence may degrade, vanish, or become less reliable. Failing to initiate a lawsuit within the statute of limitations can hinder your ability to collect and present crucial evidence and ultimately receive compensation for your injuries.
- Waiver of legal rights: Missing the deadline effectively waives your entitlement to legal action for your injuries. Even if your case is strong, it becomes inadmissible if the timeframe lapses.
- Defendant's strategic advantage: Defendants and their insurers are well-versed in the statute of limitations and may strategically exploit it during negotiations, knowing that the deadline has passed.
- Emotional toll: Missing the statute of limitations can be emotionally distressing, as it implies you won't have the opportunity to hold the responsible party accountable for their actions.
Damages Arising from Car CrashesDamages refer to losses from the at-fault party's negligence or other wrongdoing and give rise to compensation for the injured person. Damage types and values can vary from one case to the next. The most common damages arising from car crashes include economic and non-economic damages.
Economic DamagesEconomic damages are also called special damages and are the hard costs of your injury. They include lost income, loss of future earning capacity, property damage, and medical expenses such as:
- Ambulance services
- Hospital and emergency room physician fees
- Hospital and emergency room charges
- Medical testing like lab work, X-rays, CT scans, MRIs
- Physician and radiologist bills for interpreting test results
- Prescriptions and other medications
- Chiropractic care
- Physical therapy or rehab
- Medical equipment, including crutches or a wheelchair
Non-Economic DamagesIn contrast, non-economic, or general, damages are subjective with no clear value making it difficult to obtain fair compensation for them. Your car crash lawyer can negotiate with the at-fault party's insurance company so that you receive a full and fair settlement for these types of damages. Non-economic, or general, damages include:
- Pain and suffering—The physical and emotional pain you have or will endure
- Loss of enjoyment of life—The loss of present and future enjoyment of everyday activities, plus daily exercise, hobbies, recreational opportunities, and the company of friends
- Loss of consortium—A loss of ability to give or receive affection or the benefits of a family, usually a marriage relationship
Causes of Motor Vehicle CrashesMotor vehicle collisions typically result from human error, environmental conditions, and mechanical failures, specifically:
- Distracted driving: One leading cause of crashes is distracted driving. This includes activities like texting, talking on the phone, eating, or using in-car entertainment systems while driving. These distractions divert a driver's attention from the road and increase the risk of collisions, injuries and death.
- Speeding: Excessive speed reduces a driver's reaction time and increases the severity of collisions. It's a significant contributor to crashes especially on highways and in adverse weather conditions.
- Impaired driving: Driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or prescription medications impairs judgment, coordination, and reaction time, making it a significant cause of collisions.
- Fatigue: Drowsy driving can be as dangerous as drunk driving. Fatigue impairs cognitive functions, decreases alertness, and slows reaction times.
- Reckless or aggressive driving: Behaviors like tailgating, aggressive lane changes, and road rage can lead to crashes. These behaviors often involve a lack of consideration for other drivers' safety.
- Poor road conditions: Potholes, uneven surfaces, decreasing radius curves and inadequate road signage can contribute to crashes. Inadequate maintenance can also be a factor. In these cases, government entities may be wholly or partially liable for a crash.
- Mechanical failures: Defective parts or lack of vehicle maintenance can lead to sudden malfunctions like brake failures, tire blowouts, or engine problems.
- Inexperienced drivers: Novice drivers, especially teenagers, may lack the experience and skills to handle complex or emergency situations.
- Running red lights or stop signs: Failing to obey traffic signs signals can result in collisions at intersections.
- Inadequate signage or road design: Poorly designed or marked roads can confuse drivers and lead to accidents, implicating government entities' liability.
Will My Car Crash Case Go to Trial?Determining whether your car crash case will go to trial depends on various factors. The majority of car crash cases are resolved through settlements negotiated between parties, avoiding the need for a trial. Settlements are typically faster and less costly than going to court. However, your case may proceed to trial if:
- You and your attorney do not reach an agreement with the at-fault party's insurance company and their legal team
- The insurance company contests liability or your injuries.