Each state, including Virginia, has statutes of limitations that govern the amount of time plaintiffs have to bring a lawsuit against a party who harmed them. Under Virginia law, most people have two years from the date of an accident to file an injury claim. The two-year time limit applies to traffic accidents, industrial accidents, agricultural accidents, defective product accidents, and other preventable accidents that lead to serious injuries.
A two-year statute of limitations also applies when eligible surviving family members wish to file a wrongful death suit after losing a loved one due to fatal accident injuries caused by negligence or intentional harm.
Below we offer more information about Virginia’s statute of limitations for accident injury claims, including the importance of meeting the deadline, the major exception to the two-year timeline, and reasons a court might pause the statute of limitations timeline for a plaintiff.
Virginia Statute of Limitations for Accident Injury Claims
The two-year statute of limitations time clock begins running from the date of injury. The injured party must file a lawsuit before the two years ends, or risk losing valuable legal rights. The statute of limitations matters only when a claim gets filed. Once started, no fixed time limit dictates when the case must end.
Courts must strictly abide by the statute of limitations. If you miss the two-year deadline for filing a personal injury claim, it is doubtful a court will hear your case. Even if you have an airtight claim for damages, you risk missing the chance to receive compensation if you miss the deadline.
Although you have two years to file a personal injury lawsuit, it is virtually always best to hire a lawyer who can help you take action as soon as possible after getting hurt. If you take swift action, you eliminate the chance of a court dismissing your case for missing the statute of limitations deadline.
In addition to meeting the legal deadline, by taking action as soon as possible after an accident, you also benefit in other ways. The sooner you consult with an attorney, the sooner the attorney can investigate the facts, build a strong case on your behalf, negotiate a settlement or present your case in court. As time goes by, evidence important to your claim can go missing and witness memories can fade, making your case harder to prepare and prove.
Virginia Accident Injury Claims that Do Not Follow the Two-Year Rule
The two-year statute of limitations governs most personal injury cases in Virginia, but not all of them. Two specific situations related to accident injuries in Virginia have different deadlines that the injured party must meet to receive compensation.
Filing an Injury Claim Against a Government Entity in Virginia
The Commonwealth of Virginia, its counties, and its municipalities have a legal obligation to maintain public roads and spaces so they are safe for use. If you have suffered accident injuries because a government entity did not properly design, construct, or maintain roads and road equipment (such as traffic control devices), you might have a right to claim damages from that entity.
If your claim is against the Commonwealth or one of its transportation districts, under Virginia law you have just 18 months to take legal action, and before doing so you must first file a notice with the State Director of the Division of Risk Management. You have one year from the date of your accident to file this notice.
The timeline is stricter when filing a claim against one of Virginia’s counties or municipalities. Under Virginia law, you have six months from the date of your accident to send the appropriate entities a written notice of your claim. After you give notice, you can file a lawsuit. An experienced accident injury lawyer can handle the details and guide you through the claims process so you do not miss any crucial deadlines and jeopardize your ability to recover damages.
Filing an Accident Claim for a Child in Virginia
If your child suffered accident injuries, he or she has until their 20th birthday to bring a lawsuit. Technically, the two-year statute of limitations begins on their 18th birthday. However, parents may often do well to pursue a lawsuit on behalf of their child far sooner than that, because of the reasons mentioned above. Keep in mind that it could take longer to diagnose an injury in a child, especially an infant or toddler. This is especially true when children suffer head injuries in an accident.
The human brain does not fully develop until well after age 20. Sometimes parents do not notice symptoms of an injury for months until their child misses one or more major developmental milestones. Although it is ideal to consult with a lawyer soon after an accident, you will likely have to wait to find out the full scope of your child’s accident injuries before a lawyer can file a lawsuit on their behalf.
Tolling Virginia’s Statute of Limitations
Although courts must adhere to Virginia’s statute of limitations for injury claims, the law does allow for unexpected situations. Certain scenarios and conditions sometimes provide grounds for a court to pause or toll the statute of limitations.
Examples of scenarios that sometimes warrant pausing the statute of limitations time clock include:
Disability. If a plaintiff has a physical or mental disability that prevents him from taking action to recover damages after an accident, a Virginia court might toll the statute of limitations until the plaintiff can take action or someone else files an injury claim on his behalf.
- Fraud. It’s unlikely that fraud will play a role in a traffic accident claim when another motorist caused the accident and injuries. However, accidents involving an auto defect or other defective machinery could involve fraud if a company tries to cover up the defect.
- Obstruction. Sometimes defendants take drastic actions to avoid getting served papers for a lawsuit. If a defendant attempts to obstruct a claim by changing their identity, fleeing the state, or filing bankruptcy, a Virginia court might toll the statute of limitations. In these types of situations, the clock typically begins once the plaintiff can serve papers.
Regardless of how long it has been since the accident that led to your injuries, you should consult with an experienced accident injury lawyer who can evaluate your case and determine your eligibility to recover compensation.