Question 1: What Is A Statute Of Limitations?
A statute of limitations is a specific kind of law that imposes a time limit on people who want to go to court. Think of a statute of limitations as a countdown timer. With car accident cases, your timer starts as soon as you are involved in an accident or learn that you have suffered damages as a result of an accident. If you want to file a lawsuit because of a car accident, you have to do so before the clock reaches zero.
Question 2: How much time do I have to file a lawsuit?
That depends on a number of different issues. Every state has its own statute of limitation laws and each of them determines how long you have to file a lawsuit. Additionally, some time limits apply to one kind of lawsuit, while other time limits apply to different types. More here:
For example, if you are involved in a car crash in which you suffered injuries, your state might have a statute of limitations that requires you to file a lawsuit within five years. On the other hand, if a family member died as a result of a car crash, the statute of limitations might require you to file a wrongful death lawsuit within two years.
Question 3: If the statute of limitations has run out, does that mean I can’t be charged with a crime if I did something wrong?
Yes and no. There are different statutes of limitations that apply to different cases, especially when you are dealing with a civil and a criminal case. A civil case involves someone filing a lawsuit against someone else. In such cases, one person, called a plaintiff, claims that another person, the defendant, has done the plaintiff harm. Civil statutes of limitations, such as the limit on personal injury and wrongful death claims, apply in this situation.
In a criminal case, a prosecutor charges a person for violating a criminal law. Criminal laws have their own statutes of limitations, but these are entirely different than those that apply to civil cases. If you are injured in a car accident and are considering filing a lawsuit, it is the civil statute of limitations that applies, not the criminal one.
Question 4: What happens if I file a case after the statute of limitations runs out?
It’s a very big problem. If you file a case after the statute of limitations has run out you are likely out of luck. If you file your lawsuit after the statute of limitations time limit has expired, all the defendant has to do to win the case is show that you were late. Once that happens the court will throw your case out and you won’t be able to file again.
This is why it is so important to speak to an experienced car accident lawyer as soon as you are involved in an accident, especially one that results in injuries. Even if you don’t think you have a case or believe your insurance will handle everything, you need to be able to act quickly and speak to a lawyer who has experience with these types of cases. Because the laws differ so significantly between states and different laws apply to different cases, only a lawyer will be able to give you advice about your specific set of circumstances.