After you’ve been injured in a car accident in Texas, your first moves are probably to seek medical attention and look into a rental while your car is in the shop.
It doesn’t take long, however, before you start wondering how long you have to file a claim against the responsible party’s insurance or file a lawsuit against the responsible party.
If you weren’t the one responsible for the accident, you want to know that you won’t have to bear the full weight of your medical and car repair bills on your own; but how long do you have to ensure that the responsible party will pay the funds you’re due?
In this article, our Dallas car accident attorneys will explain some of the specifics of Texas’ statute of limitations surrounding car accident claims, why it’s important to get the timing right, when you should start working on your claim, and the differences between filing a claim against the at-fault party’s insurance and filing a lawsuit.
Texas' Statute of Limitations On Car Accidents
For those who aren’t well-versed in legal jargon, a “statute of limitations” is a law that sets a deadline on when you can file a lawsuit in court. According to the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code section 16.003, the statute of limitations for taking any civil action related to personal injuries or property damage that occurred in a car accident is two years from the date the accident occurred.
To put it in simpler terms: a car crash victim has exactly two years from the date of the car accident to file a personal injury lawsuit against a third party.
If you wait to file a lawsuit against the at-fault party after this two-year deadline, your lawsuit will almost certainly be dismissed. While there are some exceptions to this rule (e.g. if the victim is a minor the statute of limitations does not begin to run until they turn 18 on some claims the minor possesses), you’ll need to make sure that you begin the process of building your claim well before the two-year mark in order to get the compensation you deserve for your losses.
It's All About Getting the Timing Right
The majority of experienced Dallas car accident attorneys out there will tell you that there’s a fine balance you have to strike when it comes to the timing of your car accident lawsuit.
Before you file your personal injury lawsuit, you’ll need to give yourself plenty of time to understand the scope of your injuries and other losses like lost wages and any mental or emotional pain you’ve suffered. Unfortunately, every day you wait increases the risk of evidence or witnesses disappearing, and that could make the work of recovering compensation much more difficult. That’s where an experienced Dallas car accident attorney comes in. While you are focused on understanding and treating your injuries, your Dallas car accident attorney can gather necessary evidence and reach out to any witnesses to make sure that if a lawsuit becomes necessary, your best case can be presented.
With all of this going on in the background, the at-fault party’s insurance company may tempt you with a quick, lowball offer knowing you might accept it because you’re out of work and the medical bills are piling up. It’s important to note that if you accept a settlement offer, you’ll sign a contract that waives your right to pursue further compensation for any losses that stemmed from the car accident. While waiting can be difficult, especially if you’re out of work due to your injuries, you’ll need to give yourself plenty of time to understand the full scope of your losses before you accept a settlement offer—or you might lose out on hundreds, or potentially, thousands of dollars.
So, When Should You File?
While you are not required to file a car accident lawsuit immediately—there’s no difference between a lawsuit that is filed the day after the accident and one that is filed one year later—it generally will work to your advantage to start the process as soon as possible. Remember, not all cases require a lawsuit to be filed. Some personal injury cases can be resolved “pre-suit” or before filing the necessary paperwork to initiate a lawsuit, depending on a number of factors. Resolving a personal injury case at this stage involves making a claim under the at-fault party’s insurance, presenting all the evidence of your damages, and negotiating with the at-fault party’s insurance company to get the compensation you deserve from your injuries.
The sooner you start working with a team of experienced Dallas car accident attorneys, the sooner you can collect all the necessary evidence to build a strong claim.
It can, for example, be very difficult to locate a reliable witness almost a year after an accident, while in the days immediately following the accident, witnesses may be able to describe more clearly what happened. This is made especially more difficult if you’re trying to focus on recovering from your injuries.
An attorney, on the other hand, can help you get the filing process started, gather evidence of your injuries and the other party’s negligence, and ensure you don’t accept any inadequate offers from the insurance company.
Seeking Legal Help From Trusted Dallas Car Accident Attorneys
If you or a loved one was injured in a car accident, don’t wait to contact the experienced Dallas car accident attorneys at The Law Offices of Tim O’Hare.
We’ll schedule your free consultation and work with you to establish that you are within the statute of limitations for your car accident, what compensation you can seek, and what evidence you will need throughout the process. Get in touch with us today, and you’ll see first-hand how we’ll fight for the compensation you deserve.