How Long After A Car Accident Can You Sue Car accidents can result in severe injuries, inflicting both physical pain and significant financial burdens. In such situations, individuals often contemplate filing insurance claims, personal injury lawsuits, or both. However, not all car accidents warrant legal action. So, how can you determine whether you have a legitimate car accident case and when it’s appropriate to initiate a claim? Below, we outline key considerations to help you decide if consulting a car accident attorney is advisable.
When to Seek Legal Counsel Following a Car Accident
If you believe you have grounds for a personal injury claim, it is crucial to consult a car accident attorney promptly. Having legal representation from the outset equips you with the knowledge and guidance to safeguard your interests throughout the process. Your attorney can help preserve vital evidence and document your injuries and losses comprehensively from the outset.
Even if you are uncertain about the necessity of a claim, a lawyer can assess your case’s merits and advise you accordingly. At KRW Lawyers, our personal injury attorneys provide free consultations for this reason. By consulting with an attorney, you incur no obligation, ensuring you don’t lose anything merely by seeking guidance.
When to Pursue an Injury Claim
Before consulting an attorney, you can assess whether you may have a valid claim on your own.
- Serious Injuries or Fatalities: If you sustained severe injuries or a family member tragically lost their life in the accident, it’s essential to consult an attorney about filing a claim. Such cases often involve complex legalities, potentially multiple parties, and an intricate claims process. You might also need to file a lawsuit directly against the at-fault driver to recover expenses beyond what insurance covers.
- Inability to Work: If your serious injuries prevent you from working, discussing your case with a lawyer is advisable. An attorney can determine the extent of your income loss due to the injury and anticipate future impacts. For instance, if your injuries render you unable to perform your previous job, your earning potential could be significantly affected. Your attorney will factor in this loss of earning capacity when pursuing compensation.
- Reduced Quality of Life: If your injuries have diminished your quality of life, consulting an attorney is wise. These intangible losses are nonetheless substantial. For example, if you were an avid sports enthusiast engaging in activities three times a week before the accident but can no longer participate, it represents a loss of quality of life. In such cases, individuals can seek compensation for these losses.
If your accident has resulted in the loss of something you hold dear and has adversely impacted your quality of life, an attorney can help you pursue a claim. Lawyers possess the expertise to quantify these losses and advocate for fair compensation, encompassing both economic and non-economic damages.
Statute of Limitations for Car Accident Lawsuits
All states, including Texas, enforce statutes of limitations on personal injury claims. This dictates the timeframe within which you must file your lawsuit. In Texas, the statute of limitations for most personal injury claims is two years. Failing to initiate legal action within this period can result in the dismissal of your case, barring you from recovering compensation.
While Texas does have exceptions to the statute of limitations, they are fewer in number than in some other states. These exceptions temporarily halt or “toll” the statute of limitations. While your case will still have a future deadline, these exceptions extend the time you have to file.
One primary exception in Texas is when an individual is under a legal disability, such as being under 18 years old or deemed legally incapable. In such cases, the courts acknowledge that the person lacks the capacity to file a claim. These individuals can initiate a claim after turning 18 or upon regaining mental competence, with a standard two-year window to do so.
In exceptional circumstances, if the defendant (the person responsible for the injury) leaves Texas, the statute of limitations is tolled until their return.
Regardless of your situation, it’s advisable to consult an attorney promptly to avoid potential complications with the statute of limitations. Building a strong case takes time, and the earlier your attorney can commence gathering evidence, the better.
Understanding Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI)
Before pursuing an insurance claim or a personal injury lawsuit, you must reach Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI). MMI signifies that you have achieved the fullest extent of your recovery, with your injuries neither improving nor worsening. Upon reaching MMI, you can ascertain the total cost of your injuries, considering expenses like assistive devices, medications, physical therapy, and other necessary aids.
Although reaching MMI typically implies the conclusion of active treatment, you may still require ongoing assistance, incurring additional costs.
Can You Be Sued for a Car Accident If You Have Insurance?
Yes, individuals can be sued after a car accident, even if they possess insurance coverage. In many cases, insurance coverage is insufficient to cover the entirety of losses resulting from serious injuries. Insurance companies will not pay beyond policy limits. For instance, if you carry minimal coverage and are at fault for an accident leading to someone’s paralysis, the insurance would cover only up to the policy’s limits, which may not be nearly enough. Paralysis-related expenses can exceed millions, while minimum coverage often falls short.
Consequently, many Texans believe their insurance will protect them from legal action. While car insurance typically handles claims filed by accident victims, it may not cover the full extent of losses. In Texas, drivers are required to carry minimum liability insurance limits of $30,000 per person for bodily injury, $60,000 per accident for bodily injury, and $25,000 for property damage. However, severe injuries can surpass these limits, leaving individuals vulnerable to personal liability.
To mitigate this risk, you may consider obtaining additional insurance coverage if feasible. Increasing your liability limits reduces the chances of personal liability in accident claims.
Moreover, it’s crucial to recognize that when the at-fault party lacks assets or means to compensate, pursuing a lawsuit may not be worthwhile. Legal proceedings are costly and time-consuming, and if no assets are recoverable, the effort expended might not yield significant benefits.
Consult an Experienced Car Accident Attorney Today
If you’ve been involved in an accident and are uncertain about the validity of a personal injury claim, consider seeking the counsel of an experienced car accident attorney. At KRW Lawyers, our team can evaluate your case at no cost and discuss your legal options.
We are dedicated to protecting our clients’ rights and ensuring they receive the representation they deserve. Contact us online to schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys.