How Quickly Do I Need to File a Lawsuit After I was Injured in a Car Accident?

On average, a motor vehicle accident takes place somewhere in the world once every minute. Car crashes are a leading cause of death and injury, hospitalizing over 2.3 million people every year. Those fortunate enough to survive motor vehicle collisions are often left with steep medical costs and life-altering injuries. 

While car accidents can occur for a number of reasons, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 94% of crashes are caused by human error. Driver negligence includes phone distraction, drunk driving, and reckless behavior on the roads. Other causes of motor vehicle collisions include defective auto parts and treacherous road conditions. In many cases of vehicular accidents, there is someone who can be held accountable for the injuries and damages sustained by the victim.

In some states, a lawsuit must be filed in as little as one year after the accident. In the state of Kentucky, the statute of limitations is generally two years, unless there are exceptional circumstances, such as filing a claim for someone who died in a car wreck, in which case, the claim must be filed within a year. 

Auto accident lawsuits are designated as personal injury cases, which can lead to either a court case or a settlement with an insurance company. A personal injury lawsuit involves two different components: liability and damages. Liability establishes who is at fault for the injury. For instance, if your car collides with another car, but the driver is not the owner of the vehicle, then you would file against both the owner and the driver. The other factor in a personal injury case is damages, which determines the financial losses from the injury. The claimant must prove that the liable party is responsible for the injury due to an intentional action, negligence, or the disregard for safety measures. 

It may take months to prepare for a lawsuit, so it is incredibly important to talk to an attorney as soon as possible. It is also imperative to gather evidence such as photos, police reports, medical records, medical bills, auto repair bills, and pay stubs in the event of lost wages from missing work. An experienced car accident lawyer can help to navigate through an extensive insurance claim process and recover the maximum compensation that is owed to the claimant.

Some states are considered “no-fault” states, which means that claims are filed through the individual’s insurance company rather than filing with the insurance company of the person responsible. Although, working with one’s own insurer can still lead to unfair treatment, as some insurance adjusters set out to maximize the company’s profits by reducing the settlement amount. In some extreme cases, insurance companies have manipulated claimants’ statements to ensure the best outcome for themselves rather than for their customers. Having an attorney represent your interests can provide protection and can help prevent you from being exploited by an insurance company.

In most cases, insurance companies will settle before or shortly after your lawyer files the lawsuit. The settlement number is usually based on “special damages” which includes all financial losses and property damage costs resulting from the auto accident and may even include the emotional pain and suffering caused by the collision. They also will use a multiplier to determine the settlement estimate, meaning if the damages amount to $15,000 and the insurance adjuster decides on a multiplier of two, the settlement offer would be $30,000. 

These lawsuits can be confusing and taxing, but a qualified lawyer will be able to assist you in analyzing your options, communicate with your insurance company or the other driver’s insurance company, assemble evidence to build your case, and negotiate a settlement to ensure that you receive what you deserve.