How Long After a Car Accident Can You Sue for Damages?

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

How Long After a Car Accident Can You Sue for Damages?

Written by Malman Law, reviewed by Steve J. Malman.

A personal injury claim for a motor vehicle accident has two-years for the statute of limitations. That means you have up to two years to file your claim from the date of the accident. After that two-year window, you are permanently barred from taking the case to court ever again. While you have two years, you should never wait until close to that two-year mark to get started. Doing so could permanently hinder your case and make it impossible to seek compensation.

When it comes to how long after an accident you must wait, there is no definitive timeline. Instead, there are several factors that play a role in determining how long you must wait to file your claim.

When Should You Sue for a Motor Vehicle Accident?

A car accident makes your life difficult. Not only have you been seriously injured, now you are dealing with insurance companies, the other driver, lawyers, doctors, and you might not even have a working vehicle yet.

You are stressed – and the complexity of every conversation you have after your accident has you overwhelmed. More so, you have bills that are piling up from the hospital, doctor’s office, and even your personal expenses. You cannot afford to pay anything, you are not working, and you have run out of sick leave.

You may ask yourself at this point if you should file a car accident lawsuit to receive compensation and recover your losses. But deciding if a lawsuit is right for you is not easy – which is why you should speak with an attorney. An attorney can review your case, the costs, and help you decide if a claim or lawsuit is the better route.

So, When Can You File a Lawsuit?

The question is not about when you can file or if you should; instead, it is about how the process plays out and whether a lawsuit is the only way to receive the damages you deserve. Often, an insurance claim results in a worthwhile settlement; especially if you have a lawyer on your side.

Never just do the standard insurance process. Instead, speak with an attorney and make sure you have the evidence you need to prove your case and win a good settlement.

Insurance companies are required to represent their clients, but they also are thinking about themselves. They want to protect their profit margins, which means offering lower settlements to those who deserve much more compensation for their injuries.

If you are not sure if you should file a lawsuit, here are a few steps that may help the process become easier.

Document Everything about the Accident

Insurance claims and lawsuits often die out because they lack evidence. Therefore, even if you do not know if you will file a lawsuit you should protect your best interests and collect evidence anyway. The more evidence you have, the easier it will be to succeed with an injury lawsuit or even just a claim against the insurance company for damages.

Some things you can collect or document include:

  • Pictures of the accident scene
  • Documentation about your injuries
  • Documents and bills that show costs from your accident
  • Property damage
  • Medical bills
  • Time taken off work

The more information you have, the easier it will also be for your attorney to determine if you have a case worth pursuing and how much they may be able to obtain for you in a settlement.

Hire an Accident Attorney

Whether you want to go through an insurance claim, pursue a lawsuit, or explore your options for both – the best thing you can do for your case is hire an accident attorney. A car accident attorney represents your best interests. They know the law, they are experts at helping describe your injuries and paint a picture to the insurance claims adjuster or even a jury. More so, they have worked with other insurance companies in the past and they know how to secure a settlement.

Consider the Factors

Car accident lawsuits are handled by the other party’s insurance and your insurance. Your attorney steps in to facilitate the negotiations, and push the at-fault party’s insurance company to pay for your losses.

The at-fault party’s insurance will always offer a low settlement at first, because they want to try to save as much as possible. If you do not have an attorney, you may take that settlement thinking that you are getting a worthwhile deal.

Before you take a settlement or think a lawsuit is the only way to go, consider the following factors:

You cannot trust the insurance company

Your insurance company works for you, but they also need to cut costs when it comes to overhead. Therefore, do not assume that your insurance company will fight for the compensation you deserve. Instead, they want to limit their losses and resolve the case so that they can move on.

The other party’s insurance claims adjuster is not on your side either. They will do what they can to offer a low settlement. If the other party’s insurance company knows that you are not working with an attorney, you might find that they are less willing to negotiate and even use tactics like telling you that your settlement offer is the highest they can give or the only settlement you will receive.

You need to know your total economic damages and see if a lawsuit is worthy

Most importantly, you need to total your economic damages and see if they are even worth a lawsuit. Sometimes, the economic damages are too low; therefore, an attorney may advise that you go through a settlement with the insurance company’s claim. Other times, your attorney may feel the settlement value outweighs the costs of taking a case to court.

Consider the policy value

The other party might have insurance coverage, but how good is that coverage?

The insurance company is only responsible for paying the amount up to the policy maximum. Therefore, if you were awarded $200,000, but the insurance policy only covers $50,000, you would not receive the other $150,000 from the insurance company.

Instead, your attorney would look for assets and other ways that the defendant themselves could pay for the settlement.

So, How Long Can or Should You Wait?

You should file a lawsuit as quickly as possible. However, first, you must speak with an attorney to see if you have a case. After you meet with an attorney you can review your options, explore your rights, and see if you should file a lawsuit.

Because the law limits you to two years, the sooner you speak to an attorney the better. You do not have to file a lawsuit the day you meet with an attorney or even within that same month, but the sooner you hire someone to start gathering evidence, the easier it will be to prove your case if you need to do so later.

For your car accident, speak with an attorney from Malman Law. Our attorneys are here to work as your advocates and we fight for the compensation our clients deserve. Schedule your consultation today by calling 888-751-2297 or request more information online.

Steve Malman

Malman Law’s founder Attorney Steven Malman has over 30 years of experience handling personal injury, nursing home, medical malpractice, truck accidents, car accidents, premises liability, construction, and workers’ compensation cases in Chicago, IL.

Years of experience: +30 years
Justia Profile: Steve Malman
Illinois Registration Status: Active and authorized to practice law—Last Registered Year: 2024

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