How Soon Do I Need to File a Claim After an Injury?
Written by AskTheLawyers.com™ on behalf of Joel H. Siegal with Siegal & Richardson.
Whenever an injury occurs due to the negligence or intentional actions of another person, it may be possible to file a personal injury claim. In a personal injury claim or lawsuit, the injured party may be able to recoup certain damages from the liable party, including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.
However, every injury case has its own unique deadline, after which the injured party is no longer eligible to file a claim for that particular injury. This deadline is referred to as a statute of limitations, which varies depending on the type of case and the state in which the injury occurred. In most cases, the statute of limitations for a personal injury case ranges from one to four years.
It’s important to file a claim as soon as possible following an injury.
While the statute of limitations may provide a little extra wiggle room, it’s still important to file your claim as soon as possible. Waiting until the last minute before the statute of limitations runs out can make it hard to actually file the necessary paperwork on time, and can make identifying and obtaining evidence harder than it has to be. As a general rule, the more time that passes between the injury and filing the claim, the more challenges are likely to arise. It’s also important to note that different types of personal injury cases may have different statutes of limitations.
The statute of limitations for personal injury cases in California is generally two years from the date of the incident.
In many states including California, the clock starts ticking as soon as the injury occurs and/or should reasonably have been noticed. The reason for this specification is that some injuries are not felt immediately following an event, and may not be realized until later on.
However, it can be difficult to prove the legitimacy of an injury after the fact, so it’s important to seek medical care as soon as possible after a situation in which you might have suffered an injury. This ensures an official medical record exists documenting the event and the injury itself, and also allows you to begin receiving the necessary treatment right away.
For example, in the event of a car accident in California, the statute of limitations for seeking injury damages is only six months from the date of the accident, while property damage can be pursued up to three years later. Similarly, for injuries resulting from medical malpractice, the injured party is confined to a three-year statute of limitations.
Evidence disperses with time.
One of the biggest reasons it’s important to begin filing a claim as soon as possible is because necessary evidence tends to be lost, hidden, or even destroyed with time. When someone waits to reach out to a personal injury attorney until long after the fact, significant hurdles to locating and obtaining pertinent evidence can arise. For example, if the injury occurred in a car or truck accident but the victim waits to look into filing a claim, the weather conditions, skid marks, damaged property, driving logs, witness information, and more could all be lost to time. The closer it gets to the statute of limitations, the harder it is to build a strong case.
Financial concerns can convince people not to file, but these fears may not be warranted.
One of the big reasons people wait to learn about their legal options, including filing a claim, is concern over money. Someone facing medical bills, lost wages, and damaged property after an injury won’t be keen on spending more money. However, it may help to note that most personal injury attorneys offer free consultations and work on a contingency fee basis; this means that clients don’t pay for their services unless and until their case is won. This allows the injury victim and their family to focus on healing and recovery, rather than worrying about another expense. It also allows the attorney in question to begin collecting evidence and building a case as soon as possible to head off any unnecessary complications.
To learn more about your options for recovery following an injury, or for help beginning your own claim, reach out to a personal injury attorney in your area.