After a car accident, chances are you’re worried about getting medical treatment, fixing damage to your vehicle, and other immediate concerns. But how long do you have to file a claim? What is the statute of limitations for car accident claims?
In Washington, you have three years from the date of the wreck to file a lawsuit. If you miss that three year deadline, you may not be able to get compensation for your injuries.
Why You Should File Your Car Accident Claim as Soon as Possible
Filing a lawsuit is often a lengthy process. Before your car accident attorney can even begin the paperwork, they may need to take the following actions:
- Investigate who is at-fault for the accident;
- Determine if multiple parties are liable;
- Consult accident reconstruction experts;
- Obtain any police records that detail information about the accident (such as involved parties, road conditions, etc).
Because the steps above will take time to complete, it is important that you begin the claims process as soon as possible. You do not want to wait till the last minute and lose out on your compensation because you delayed too long.
What If You Don’t Discover Your Injuries Until After Three Years?
Let’s say it’s been four years since your car accident and you’ve been fine up until now. You go out for a jog, but half-way through you feel a shooting pain in your back. Now you have trouble even just moving your legs. After going to the hospital, your doctor traces your injury back to an untreated fracture in your spine. Since it’s been four years since the date of your accident, can you still file a lawsuit for your injury?
In some cases, yes. This is known as the Discovery Rule, which allows people to file lawsuits after the statute of limitations if they can successfully prove that they’ve only now just discovered their injuries. However, this is not very common and it lends itself to complex issues. For instance, the insurance company may try to claim that you knew about the injury all along and that you failed to keep up with treatments.
Gathering Evidence and Eyewitnesses
In order to properly argue your case, you will need to back up your claims through evidence and eyewitness statements. A number of factors could lead to a loss of crucial information, such as:
- Vehicle of the at-fault driver later gets totaled, meaning that it could be scrapped into a compacted hunk of metal.
- If the at-fault driver was texting and their distracted driving caused the accident, it’s important to remember that phone providers only keep records for a short amount of time.
- As time passes, the memories of eyewitnesses will begin to fade, making it harder to get an accurate account of the wreck.
When Can You Toll the Statute of Limitations?
Under very limited circumstances, you may be able to toll the statute of limitations for car accident claims for:
- Minors until they reach age 18.
- Individuals who are disabled or incompetent.
Since tolling the statute of limitations is uncommon and problematic, however, it’s best to get started on your case right away if possible.
Etengoff Pak Law Group can help you get the ball rolling so that you don’t miss out on your chance to obtain compensation. To learn more about the statute of limitations for car accident claims and how it applies to your case, contact us today.