If you’ve been injured in a Texas car accident case, you likely have a lot on your mind. One of the last things most people think about when recovering from the trauma of a serious collision is the legal time limits that are required to file a personal injury case. Though it’s understandable why this wouldn’t be among the first things on your mind after an auto accident, keeping time limits in mind is incredibly important to the ultimate success of your claim. To find out more about time limits in a Texas auto accident case, keep reading.
What is a statute of limitation?
Though many people are unaware of this, there are legal rules that exist to govern how long certain types of cases are allowed to linger before being brought in court. These rules are known as the statute of limitations and they control when a lawsuit can and cannot be filed. There are specific limitations for a multitude of cases, with some wide ranges in the time allowed to bring different types of lawsuits.
What does the Texas statute of limitations law say?
Texas, as well as every state in the country, has implemented its own statute of limitations. With regard to car accident cases, these kinds of lawsuits are seen as personal injury suits, something that falls under the tort classification. Texas law says that plaintiffs have two years from the occurrence of an accident to file a personal injury lawsuit.
When does the clock begin to tick?
The usual rule is that the statute of limitation begins to run when the event upon which the lawsuit is based occurred. That means if you were involved in a car accident on January 1st of 2015, you would have until January 1st of 2017 to file your personal injury lawsuit. We should clarify that the statute of limitation does not mean the case must be filed, heard and finalized by that date, just that the claim itself must be filed with a court.
Discovery of harm
Though the statute of limitation is quite strict and there is usually little room for interpretation, there are some areas for wiggle room. One example of this is the discovery of harm rule. Though the statute of limitation usually says that you must bring a lawsuit within two years of when the accident itself occurred, there are instances where the harm that the accident causes is not immediately apparent. For instance, an accident could cause serious back or neck pain that may not present itself until months or even years down the road. What happens in that case? In these cases, it is possible to argue that the statute of limitation should be tolled to run only from the date at which the harm should have reasonably been discovered. That means the two years may run from the date at which the neck or back pain was apparent rather than two years from the date of the accident itself.
The clock for minors doesn’t begin ticking right away, giving children and teens longer to consider filing a personal injury claim. The statute of limitation is considered tolled until the minor reaches 18. That means the two-year time limit begins on the minor’s 18th birthday.
What happens if you wait too long?
Let’s say you were involved in a car accident in May of 2013. The wreck was a serious one, but between work, doctor’s appointments and a hectic life, you just never got around to taking action until August of 2015. What happens then? Because the statute of limitation says that a person has two years to file a personal injury claim, your case would almost certainly be tossed out of court. The time limit to bring the case ran out in May of 2015 and by August your case has exceeded the legal amount of time allowed. A judge has no discretion to hear the case at that point, regardless of how compelling. This is why it is so critically important that you reach out to an experienced Texas auto accident attorney as soon as possible following a collision. Though you may not be ready to begin the process quite so soon, your lawyer can begin laying the groundwork and keep watch over the time to ensure your claim is not barred from court due to the statute of limitation.
Reason behind the statute of limitations
What’s the point of denying those who have been harmed the right to file a lawsuit? Are legislators just trying to make life harder for victims of accidents? Not exactly. Statutes of limitation exist to help the public at large, even if they may occasionally work to some specific plaintiffs’ disadvantage. The statutes are designed to encourage timely prosecution of cases as well as resolution of claims while evidence and individuals are still available. The rules exist to prevent surprise cases from appearing out of the blue when memories, evidence and witnesses may have disappeared.
If you were injured in a car accident, contact San Antonio Auto Accident Lawyers today for a FREE case review.