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Personal Injury Lawsuits & the Statute of Limitations

Posted in Blog on March 1, 2015

The moment an accident happens, no matter what type it is, a legal clock starts ticking known as the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations is a set of laws that dictate how long someone has to bring about a lawsuit against those who caused harm, whether it is the driver of another car, the premises holder or the workplace.

Statute of limitations doesn’t mean that a lawsuit has to be brought immediately; rather, it puts a time limit on filing legal action. Each type of accident has a specific limitation appended to it. For example, a car accident victim is given two years from the date of the incident to file a lawsuit.

Impact of Statute of Limitations on Injury Victims

What this means for the victim is if he or she were to try to file a lawsuit two years after the accident occurred, nothing would happen. The victim had the opportunity to seek legal relief and failed to do so in a timely manner. If there were extenuating circumstances, it may be possible to get the court to hear a case after the statute of limitations has expired, but it is unlikely.

What an accident victim should do is contact a lawyer about filing suit as soon as possible after the incident. A lawsuit may not be filed right away, but the lawyer will begin to review the case in order to learn more about it and determine what the best course of action should be.

In the meantime, the victim, now client, can refer any contact about the situation to the lawyer, and there is very good reason for this. Many accidents are covered by insurance, but insurance companies don’t want to pay out if they don’t have to. They will attempt to get the victim to sign off on a settlement that may not be in the victim’s favor, but most certainly in the favor of the insurance company.

It’s unfair, but legal, and the insurance company is relying on the victim being unaware of his or her rights. Once the victim realizes that the settlement is inappropriate, it’s usually too late to do anything about it, as the agreements are written to be binding and no further monies will be issued. Having a lawyer on the case stops all of the contact and badgering from the insurer.

Now it’s the lawyer’s job to work out a settlement for the accident. Sometimes it’s quick; sometimes it takes a while, as the insurer tries to drag out negotiations to wind down the clock. However, the lawyer knows of these tactics and will file suit before the statute of limitations expires.

Filing a lawsuit is usually the last course of action, as it’s preferable to negotiate a settlement. But in the event the insurer won’t come to an agreement, taking the case to court essentially forces the hand of the insurer. There are never any guarantees in legal matters, but a lawyer will do as much as possible to protect his or her client and secure the client a reasonable settlement.

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