The rock band Chicago famously sang “Does anybody really know what time it is? Does anybody really care?” At Abeyta Nelson part of our job is to pay close attention to time limitations on accident or injury claims. If appropriate legal steps are not taken within the parameters set forth by statute, claims can be completely lost or significantly compromised. So, the lawyers and staff at Abeyta Nelson care very much about what time it is. There are important time limitations in every step of the accident or injury claims process that must be followed.
Statute of Limitations on Car Accident or Injury Claims
The statute of limitations on a civil claim provides that if a lawsuit is not properly filed within a certain period of time after the claim arises, then the claim is likely to be completely barred. In Washington State, the general statute of limitations on injury claims is three years. However, there are other time limitations for other types of claims. For example, the time limitation on maintaining a claim for nuisance is two years. The time limitation for claims for damages to real property is not quite clear under Washington law but might well be only two years.
Other states have different time limitation periods. For example, our neighboring states of Oregon, Idaho, and California have two-year statutes of limitation on injury claims. If you have a claim arising from an injury, it is always best to consult a lawyer who handles only injury claims. This link to the Washington Statutes of Limitations provides some general information regarding the time limits on filing a civil complaint or criminal charges.
There are numerous exceptions to the three-year limitation period on accident or injury claims in Washington state. For example, if you are under the age of 18 when you were injured, the statute of limitations will not begin to “run” until you reach age 18, providing you a three-year limitation period beginning on your 18th birthday. Another exception is when you have suffered an injury, but either didn’t know about the injury or did not know that someone was negligent and responsible for your injury. In that case, the three-year statute of limitations is said to start running on the date of the discovery of the injury or the date on which you discovered that someone was responsible for your injury. However, you should never rely on these exceptions to the statute of limitations if you do not need to do so. It is always much safer to consult with an experienced injury lawyer right away after an injury and well before the three-year limitation is up.
You should also be aware that there are numerous steps to be taken before the three-year limitation period. The law frequently requires strict compliance with these steps. As a result, some lawyers refuse to represent individuals contacting them shortly before the three-year limitation period is about to expire. As a general rule, you simply should not wait to contact a lawyer after suffering an injury. Consult with one right away to get good advice.
Insurance Policy Time Limitations on Car ACcident or Injury Claims
You should also thoroughly examine your own insurance policy for time limitations. Every policy and every company has different rules. These time limitations are set forth in the policy of insurance. For example, if you are injured by an uninsured motorist and have an uninsured or underinsured motorist claim under your auto insurance policy, it is important that you not only report the claim to your insurance company immediately, but there may also be a time limitation set forth in the policy to begin legal proceedings against the insurance company.
Generally speaking, you will have at least three years from the date of your injury to begin legal proceedings against your insurance company on an uninsured motorist claim. However, the language in your insurance policy might contain further limitations. For that reason, it is always important that you consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer who can review your insurance policy for additional time limitations. Once again, it is important that you not wait until the last minute to contact a lawyer, so that the lawyer has sufficient time to take all of the necessary steps to commence legal proceedings and protect your rights.
Under your auto policy, there are also time limitations on medical and wage loss benefits under the personal injury protection (PIP) provisions of your policy. Once again, a claim must be reported to your insurance company as soon as possible following your injury. The medical benefits typically only apply to treatment received within three years of the date of your injury. For that reason, it is important that you not procrastinate but receive all necessary treatment within three years of the date of your injury before your benefits expire. Wage loss benefits are typically only applicable for 52 weeks after your injury, excluding the first two weeks.
If you are served with legal papers, you also have a limited period of time in which to respond. Generally speaking, you must respond to a lawsuit filed against you within 20 days of the date you were served with a copy of the legal papers. For that reason, if you are served with legal papers it is extremely important that you consult with a lawyer immediately. If a response is not filed within 20 days, the other side has the right to take an order of default against you. That means that the other side automatically wins the lawsuit because you failed to respond.
Once a lawsuit is started, there are numerous time limitations that need to be tended to by an experienced attorney. These time limitations are set forth in the rules and statutes governing lawsuits. This makes it extremely difficult for a layperson to manage a lawsuit without the assistance of a lawyer. If you have any questions about your personal injury claim, contact Abeyta Nelson Injury Law for a free consultation.
-blog post written by attorney Rod Nelson, Abeyta Nelson Injury Law