Managing after a motor vehicle accident in Virginia can be incredibly stressful. Not only is it challenging to deal with devastating injuries and debilitating pain on a physical and emotional level, but treating these injuries also often carries a heavy financial impact, leading to high medical bills from emergency and long-term treatment. Victims of such horrific accidents deserve justice and compensation to help with the financial impacts.
Getting compensation, however, requires filing a claim, and doing so on time. Unfortunately, many car accident victims do not realize that they have a limited amount of time to file their claims, and must take many necessary preliminary steps before they may file. When individuals wait too long to bring a claim, they can lose their opportunity to get the money they deserve.
This post discusses the time limitations for filing a claim for a Virginia car accident, the potential consequences of waiting too long to file, and how victims can make sure they file within the allotted time and preserve their claims.
The Statute of Limitations – What is it?
The statute of limitations is a law that dictates the amount of time you have to file a claim following a given offense. This law varies by offense and from state to state. If you do not file your claim by the deadline, you cannot pursue legal action and collect compensation for your injuries.
Legislatures pass statutes of limitations because the more time passes, the more challenging it becomes to fairly administer justice. Witnesses may disappear or memories of the incident may fade, and vital evidence can disappear. Given these, it could become unduly difficult for a victim to prove their case or the wrongful party to defend themselves.
The law also protects defendants’ due process rights, and that they can achieve what the law refers to as “repose,” or relief from the threat of a lawsuit. Without a statute of limitations, an offense could occur and a plaintiff could sue a defendant for an indeterminate period in the future.
Virginia’s Statute of Limitations for Car Accident Injury Claims
In Virginia, the statute of limitations for filing a car accident injury claim is generally two years from the accident date. This same period applies to most cases, such as premises liability, product liability, and dog bite cases. However, some exceptions to this rule can change the applicable deadline to file a case. For instance, when victims can’t file a lawsuit because they are a minor or mentally incompetent, the statute of limitations can toll or pause if the victim cannot file a suit.
While two years may seem like a long time, it goes by quickly in the wake of a motor vehicle accident. To protect your legal rights and pursue the financial recovery you deserve, speak with an experienced car accident lawyer as soon after an accident as possible. These attorneys can determine precisely how much time you have to file your case and get you on the quickest way to recovering compensation.
What Happens if You File a Virginia Car Accident Injury Claim After the Statute of Limitations Expires?
Unfortunately, if you miss the filing deadline but decide to file your injury suit anyway, you’ll likely be out of luck. Generally, the defendant will notice the error, especially if they have an attorney, and will file a motion to dismiss the case. Unless you meet some exception to the statute of limitations rule, the court will most likely grant this dismissal.
The court in which you file may dismiss your case if you miss the deadline and the court thus lacks jurisdiction. Consequently, failing to file a car accident injury claim within the statute of limitations likely forfeits your right to pursue compensation for your injuries and losses.
Does a Virginia Car Accident Case Need to Resolve Before the Statute of Limitations Expires?
To be clear, while you need to file a vehicle accident case within the statute of limitations, settlement or court order does not need to resolve a case by that deadline.
In fact, injury cases frequently take much longer than two years to resolve because defendants and their insurers need time to agree to a fair settlement amount—or, if they fail to do so, go to trial and get a court to determine damages.
Suing Governmental Entities in Virginia – Impact on the Statute of Limitations for Filing a Car Accident Case
Typically, Virginia has more stringent mandatory deadlines and requirements when it comes to filing any claim against a governmental entity.
For instance, if you have a car accident injury claim against the Commonwealth or transportation district, you must file a written notice of claim with the appropriate authority within one year of the date of the injury. This law requires that this notice contains specific information relating to the nature of the claim. Due to these complexities, if you believe you have an injury claim against a governmental agency, work with a skilled car accident lawyer to comply with the state’s statute of limitations.
Ensure Your Injury Virginia Car Accident Case is Filed Right and on Time
Motor vehicle accident claims can be complicated, tedious, and demanding. Trying to figure out what, where and by when you need to file in your case can overwhelm you, especially on top of the other stressors the accident caused. Working with an experienced and knowledgeable car accident attorney can relieve significant stress and help preserve your claim. An attorney can tackle the challenging legal issues for you and ensure you get the assistance you need.
They do this by:
- Going over your case in detail and determining the legal options you can pursue and your time for doing so.
- Answering any questions or concerns you may have.
- Investigating the vehicle accident and securing the vital evidence needed to initiate your claim.
- Filing legal documents and motions before your time expires.
- Fighting for the maximum financial recovery you deserve.
If a motor vehicle accident disrupted your life or the life of a family member, do not wait to get the legal help you need.