Your Texas Car Accident Case and the Statute of Limitations
How long after a car crash can you file a personal injury claim in Texas?
When it comes to any type of legal action, whether criminal or civil, the procedures of law are governed by what's known as the “statute of limitations.” This time limit typically begins from the date on which the incident occurred, so it's important to be diligent in matters that might lead to a lawsuit.
For instance, if you were to file a personal injury lawsuit stemming from an auto accident and the state's statute of limitations had already expired, the defense would likely make a motion to have the lawsuit dismissed.
If you've recently been involved in a serious car accident and want to know your options, consider scheduling a free consultation with our experienced Texas car accident attorneys.
We'll examine the details of your case and tell you how much you stand to gain. If you choose to hire us, you won't pay a penny unless we win. That's our No Fee Guarantee.
What is the Statute of Limitations for Texas Auto Accidents?
To avoid missing the deadline following a Texas car accident, it's important to satisfy the requirements of civil law in a timely manner and work with a personal injury attorney who will be prompt in meeting deadlines. The state of Texas keeps a brief window open for filing personal injury lawsuits resulting from car accidents, so you and your lawyer must not delay.
As set forth in the Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code (Section 16.003), car accident lawsuits must be filed within two years of the incident.
This time limit holds true, whether the injured individual was a driver or passenger in the crash. Additionally, the plaintiff may be a motorcyclist, bicyclist or pedestrian. Regardless of the role the plaintiff played in the accident, the same two-year limit applies.
Even if you're only filing a lawsuit to recover property damages and there's no need to sue for medical expenses, that same two-year time frame applies. Except in unusual circumstances, the statute of limitations cannot be altered or paused with the countdown beginning on the date of the accident. Only a fatality can aggravate the circumstances and lead to the possibility of adding time to the statute of limitations.
When a car accident results in a person's death and a wrongful death lawsuit is likely, Texas law allows for the possibility of tolling the statute of limitations, or pausing the time limit in which a lawsuit must be filed. This gives the plaintiff, who would be a personal representative acting for the family of the deceased individual, up to one additional year to file the lawsuit.
Additionally, the statute of limitations in a wrongful death lawsuit begins on the day the individual is pronounced dead, which may be different from the day the car accident occurred.
What Should You do After a Car Accident in Texas?
Contact the police
Your first concern following a car accident is to contact the police. They will interview witnesses and participants, then file a Crash Report (Form CR-2). The report must be filed in cases where injuries or property damages equal or exceed $1,000. Additionally, if the accident results in a death, the crash report form must also be completed and submitted within 10 days of the accident.
Examine your injuries
Immediately after the accident and after the police have been called, determine your own injuries. If you don't require immediate medical attention, you can then see to the medical condition of others at the scene. Calling for emergency assistance and attending to the injured should be your first priority.
While you're still at the scene of the accident, it's important to gather as much information as possible—including contact information for other drivers involved in the incident. Write down names, addresses, phone numbers, and insurance information, as well as details about the vehicles involved and passengers or pedestrians who may also have been involved in the accident.
Also, talk to eyewitnesses and gather their names, addresses, and phone numbers. Remember, all of this information may help you achieve a proper settlement from the insurance company, as well as assisting in a possible lawsuit.
Next, you'll want to collect as much evidence as possible. If your phone isn't broken, use the camera to take pictures of the scene. Give special attention to taking photos of injuries and property damage caused by the accident.
Contact your insurance company
While still at the crash scene, or shortly after, be sure to call your insurance company and notify them of the accident. Answer the agent's questions honestly, but do not admit fault.
See a doctor
Even if you don't think you're injured, it's a good idea to get a medical check-up following the accident. Some injuries, such as brain trauma and back injuries, can take days or even weeks to produce symptoms. A medical exam may uncover hidden injuries, before the statute of limitations runs out.
Consult an attorney
Finally, consult with an attorney experienced in dealing with auto accident cases. Most law firms offer a free initial consultation to give you an idea about the value of your case and help you better decide how to move forward.
Even if you ultimately decide not to hire an attorney, it's wise to speak with a lawyer before considering settlement offers from any insurance company. The representative for the insurance company is motivated to save as much money as possible, so he or she may offer a settlement far less than that which will cover your injuries and property damages.
An attorney can help you act fast and meet necessary deadlines, which is especially important when attempting to recover damages for injuries and property damages. The statute of limitations restricts how long you have to file a car accident lawsuit, so working with someone who knows the law will greatly benefit you.
Once the statute of limitations expires, even the best attorney can't turn back the clock. For this reason, you should waste no time in taking action as soon as you're involved in any auto accident.