How Long Do You Have to File a Lawsuit After a Car Accident?

A car accident causes major disruptions to a victim’s life. Car damage, injuries, and emotional trauma are all likely outcomes of major collisions. After an accident, a victim needs time to recuperate and get their life back on track, so pursuing compensation may not be the first thing on their mind. This leads to an important question— How long does a victim have to file a lawsuit after a car accident? Depending on the circumstances of the accident, there are a couple of answers. The following discusses the allotted timeframe and steps victims should take after their accident.

Pennsylvania Statute of Limitations

statute of limitations

The time limit a plaintiff has for filing a suit is known as the “statute of limitations” and is differs from case to case. It’s important that car accident victims know of the time limit they have to file a personal injury lawsuit or time may run out on them. The statute of limitations for a car accident varies from 1 to 10 years depending on the state.

According to Pennsylvania law, victims of car accident injuries have two years from the date of the injury to file suit against the driver responsible. If the claim is against a city, county, or state government agency, one must file the notice of intent to sue within six months of the injury. There are certain exceptions to these limits.

Discovery Exception

seek medical treatment

After an accident, it’s important to receive a medical evaluation in order to spot injuries as quickly as possible. Even then, injuries are often overlooked or may not manifest for months or years. In these cases, the deadline for filing a lawsuit is pushed back to two years after the date the plaintiff became aware, or should have been aware, of the injury.

Exception for Minors

Minors are people under the age of 18. Minors who are injured in a car accident have two years after they turn 18 to file a lawsuit. Though this exception is not considered if the minor is emancipated from their parents, meaning the parent has no control or responsibility over the child.

Determination of Negligence and Compensation

In Pennsylvania, there are certain guidelines that determine compensation for the victim of a car accident injury.

First, the percentage each party was at fault for the accident is calculated. This factor is used to determine the compensation the plaintiff is owed. If the plaintiff is found over 50% at-fault for the accident, they are unable to collect compensation.

file a lawsuit after a car accident

The total compensation is calculated based on the damages incurred. The percentage the defendant is at fault dictates a proportionate amount that is awarded to the plaintiff. For example, if the damages are determined to be $10,000 and the defendant is found 80% at-fault for the accident, the plaintiff is rewarded 80% of the damages, or $8,000.

In order to make a case against the defendant that proves their negligence, you should begin by collecting evidence that supports your case.

Steps to Take After a Car Accident

There are important steps you should take in order to file a lawsuit after a car accident and have the best chance of receiving proper compensation.

taking car accident photos

Collect evidence—You should obtain various forms of evidence from the accident scene. Call the police from the scene to have them write up an accident report. This report will serve as a verified narrative of how the collision occurred. Take photos of the scene from as many angles as possible, as well as of any sustained injuries. Collect eye witness accounts of the accident and take down the bystanders’ contact information for any further questions that might arise.

medical evaluation

Receive medical treatment—Your top priority after an accident is your safety and well-being. Call 911 to summon an ambulance to the scene. Submit to a medical evaluation and receive the treatment you need. Keep copies of all your medical records and bills incurred from the accident as these will be used to calculate your compensation. Be sure to follow up with your doctor about your injuries in order to ensure your treatment is working and to check for any hidden injuries that may have been missed during your initial evaluation.

Record your pain and suffering—Car accidents cause more than damage to your body and vehicle—they can completely alter your life. Keep a record of the emotional trauma caused by the accident, any significant impacts made to your daily well-being, as well as any wages you’ve lost from missed work.

car accident lawyer

Contact a personal injury lawyer—Legal matters are exceptionally difficult to navigate without the help of an experienced attorney. Contact a personal injury lawyer in order to receive legal assistance and guidance. Look for an attorney with ample experience with car accident lawsuits and ask for references to contact. When you meet with your personal injury lawyer, bring all the evidence you’ve collected in order to get your case started. A knowledgeable lawyer will help you file a lawsuit after a car accident and increase your chances to receive the proper compensation you deserve.

Consult An Experienced Car Accident Attorney

A trusted personal injury lawyer can help you file a lawsuit after a car accident within the allotted time frame. Donaghue and Labrum has served the community proudly for several years and has gained a strong reputation of fighting for their clients and winning. Our priorities include providing you with clear communication as well as taking the stress off your shoulders. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, don’t hesitate to contact Donaghue and Labrum to set up your free initial consultation.