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

Kimberly2 1Author:

Kimberly J. Benjamin, Founder & Managing Attorney

When a car accident occurs, most people are busy taking care of repairing or replacing their vehicles and, in many instances, taking care of injuries that may have been sustained in the mishap. Often, the emphasis right after the mishap is on getting back to normal, so those involved don’t immediately think about suing the person or persons who caused the accident for injuries or property damage.

How long do plaintiffs have to file a lawsuit? The legal firm of Benjamin Law, LLC can provide additional information.


Statutes of Limitations Affect Your Deadline

Statutes of limitations have a purpose. They let a defendant know how long they could possibly be sued for injuries or property damage, yet they also serve a purpose for plaintiffs. The statute of limitations also forces plaintiffs to act quickly to ensure that all the evidence remains available and that all persons involved can still provide accurate accounts of the accident.

The time that plaintiffs have to file a lawsuit starts ticking when the accident occurs or when the plaintiff reasonably knew that injuries were sustained from the accident. The latter provision is in place as some injuries don’t manifest until weeks or months after the mishap occurred. Plaintiffs that try to file lawsuits after the statute of limitations expired run the risk of having their lawsuits thrown out unless they meet certain conditions. Having a DWI Attorneys in KC Mo​ from the person who caused the accident might affect the outcome of your suit.


Statute Time Length Varies by State

The length of time that you have to file a lawsuit seeking damages from injuries resulting from a car accident varies by state. Although some states have the same statute of limitations for injuries and property damage, others differ, so it’s essential to know your state’s rules.

Generally, the length of time you have in your state to file for injuries sustained in a car accident will be the same as for all personal injury cases. The minimum is two years, except for Kentucky and Louisiana, where it is one year. Filing time can extend to as many as six years in Maine and North Dakota. For property damage, plaintiffs have a minimum of one year in Louisiana, while Rhode Island residents can wait as long as ten years.

According to MO statute 516.120, in Missouri, the statute of limitations for both personal injury claims and property damage claims is five years. Still, since memories fade and laws change, it is necessary to contact your attorney as quickly as possible.


Can the Statute of Limitations Be Waived?

Yes, in some cases, you will be able to file beyond the stated date. Most involve the status of the defendant and can include factors such as:

  • The defendant has left your state.
  • The defendant is a minor or is unfit to stand trial.
  • The defendant is dead or imprisoned.
  • One of you is on active military duty.
  • You and the defendant reach an agreement for negotiations.

If you are unsure if you still have a claim, you should contact your local law firm and clarify what the Missouri traffic regulations are, as well as verify your rights.


Shortened Time for Filing

On the other hand, some situations can shorten the statute of limitations time frame. These can involve defendants involved with a government entity as some governments only allow a six-month window. Others involve Dram shop laws whereby an establishment like a bar or a restaurant is held liable for allowing drivers to become intoxicated. In some states, you only have 60 days to file a suit under these circumstances.

In 1934 under Section 303.040, Missouri revised the Dram shop laws. Since the laws vary drastically from state to state and you are bound by the state’s laws in which you violate them, it is wise to consult local lawyers.

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