Bagen Law Firm | October 22, 2022 | Truck Accidents
Personal injury lawyers often remind you to file your truck accident claim before the statute of limitations expires. There is a reason for that. If you miss this deadline, you no longer have any claims. Your legal rights have a shelf life that ends when this period runs. You can file a claim as soon as you have the evidence and documentation necessary to prove both legal responsibility and your damages. You must file a claim before the end of the statute of limitations.
Why There Is a Statute of Limitations in a Truck Accident Case?
The statute of limitations is both a jurisdictional and public policy issue. While the law wants to give you the full right to recover financially for your truck accident injuries, the law also wants to be fair to the defendant. It is unfair to the defendant if someone might sue them at any time for a truck accident long ago. Not only will it cause them financial difficulty, but they may also not have the evidence to make their own case. Therefore, the law puts a time cap on your ability to sue.
In Florida, the statute of limitations is longer than those found in most states. Here, you have four years from the time of injury to file a lawsuit in court. In many states, the statute of limitations is a mere two years, imposing a much quicker deadline than you will ordinarily face.
The four-year period Is for personal injury cases that are rooted in negligence. Some truck accident cases result in the death of another driver or passenger. In that case, the family will file a wrongful death action. In Florida, the statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim is two years from the date the person died.
There Is Usually No Wiggle Room When It Comes to a Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations is a firm deadline in every personal injury case. There is no such thing as “close enough” Regarding the statute of limitations, if you miss it by even a day, your legal case is over. There are very few exceptions to the statute of limitations. The most common is when the defendant kept you from learning the cause of your injuries before the deadline expired. However, you should never count on any exceptions applying because courts construe them very strictly.
Truck Accident Cases Can Take a Long Time
During the four years of the statute of limitations, you will be doing several things related to the legal process. You often negotiate with the trucking company’s insurance carrier to settle a truck accident claim. While you may be ready to file a lawsuit, your attorney can advise you to do what is necessary to stay out of court because it means you can get your money quicker.
It can take months, or even years, to settle a truck accident claim with the insurance company. Every claim is a matter of negotiation, And the insurance company does what it can to try to wear down your resolve. To the extent that you wait until closer to the four-year deadline to file a lawsuit, you are giving the insurance company time to raise their settlement offer.
Your Case Goes Away Completely When You Do Not File it in Time
While the statute of limitations looks like a time deadline, in reality, it is a jurisdictional issue. After a certain period, your ability to sue entirely goes away. The court cannot entertain your case even if it wants to. It simply does not have the legal right to give you a hearing. Therefore, the court will dismiss the case if you miss the statute of limitations. It will not hear the case on its merits, and you will not get your day in court.
The statute of limitations is a threshold issue in every truck accident case. Once you file your lawsuit, the defendant will search for any reason to try to get rid of your case and escape legal liability. They look for various reasons to file a motion to dismiss, including a lack of jurisdiction or missing the statute of limitations. These grounds may be in addition to the standard failure to state a claim motion that defendants will file.
The closer to the deadline that you filed your case, the more likely you will see a motion to dismiss based on the statute of limitations. The defendant is looking for any possible reason to move up the date of your injury and argues about when you should have sued.
Before the court allows the case to proceed any further, the judge must rule on the motions to dismiss. Only after a judge denies these motions will the case move forward to the discovery phase.
The Clocks Starts Ticking When You Have Suffered an Injury
The statute of limitations begins to run on the date of your injury. The law merely says there are four years to file a case rooted in negligence. It does not specify when the four-year period begins to run. Many assume that the statute of limitation begins to run on the date of the truck accident. In most cases, that is true. However, sometimes you may not have known of your injury at the exact time of the accident. Therefore, courts will interpret the beginning of the statute of limitations as when you suffered an injury or should have known you suffered an injury.
The “should have known” limitation keeps you from deliberately ignoring apparent signs of an injury. Personal injury plaintiffs cannot overlook clear indicators that they may have suffered an injury. Instead, they should seek medical attention as soon as possible to have their injury diagnosed and treated. For example, if you had constant neck or back pain after your accident, the statute of limitations will begin to run at the time when you had pain instead of the time when a doctor diagnosed your injuries.
Do Not Rush Filing a Case Just to Beat a Clock
While the statute of limitations is a jurisdictional issue, and it is a fundamental matter in every case, it is also essential that you not panic. You usually have plenty of time to file a legal case, and the quality of the case is much more important than the timing. Although there are reasons why you should file a claim sooner rather than later, you should never rush. The crucial thing is to begin the legal process while taking the time to get everything right. Your financial compensation will depend on it.
Errors or Shortcuts Can Doom Your Truck Accident Claim
Your claim or lawsuit is the first step forward that you will take in your case. If you have rushed to file it, you may make mistakes that can result in a weak claim. The insurance company can deny your claim because it thinks you lack the necessary evidence. They may think you are not as hurt as you are because your claim misses critical medical information.
While you can amend your claim, you do not want to initially lose credibility. If your lawsuit complaint has errors or is missing key evidence, the court may dismiss it before you can even get a hearing on the merits. The more persuasive you can make your claim, the better your chance of getting full financial compensation for your injuries.
Complex Truck Accident Cases Take Time
You must take the time to thoroughly investigate and get things right when you seek compensation. Truck accident cases have many more complexities than car accident claims. There are more sources of evidence and more things that you can bring to bear on the merits of your claim. If you can establish a company-wide pattern of breaking the rules, you may even be eligible for punitive damages in your case. Your attorney will cast a broader net to marshal all the available relevant evidence to prove your claim and determine who is responsible for the accident.
It is better to take the time to allow your attorney to do their investigative work while keeping their eye on the clock. There should be enough time for your attorney to get to the bottom of your case and file it well before the statute of limitations.
Hire an Attorney as Soon as You Can
From your standpoint, the thing you can do to protect your legal rights and improve your chances of recovering financial compensation is to hire an attorney as soon as possible after your truck accident injury. Just because you have four years to file a lawsuit does not mean you should wait that long to begin the legal process.
You can lose valuable evidence to prove your case or give the trucking company the time it needs to cover its own tracks. Please do not underestimate the ability of the trucking company to do whatever is necessary to protect themselves. They know that an angry jury can hit them with a large verdict, and some unscrupulous trucking companies may do everything possible for self-preservation.
You Must Move to Get the Necessary Evidence Quickly
Truck accident cases are very time-sensitive. For example, one key source of information is the truck’s event data recorder (also known as the black box). Trucking companies are only required to preserve evidence from the black box for a certain period before they are allowed to write over it.
Trucking companies may get rid of this data even sooner if they know it can lead to their liability in a civil lawsuit. You may also lose physical evidence, such as proof that you can get from the accident scene or statements from witnesses who saw what happened.
You should also move quickly to begin a legal process because you can expect that it will take a considerable amount of time. Insurance companies will be much more deliberate about writing checks when there is a lot of money on the line. They will take more time to negotiate settlements and even to respond to your claim in the first place.
The process will not be short-circuited or take any less time just because you began late. Even if you do not immediately file the claim, you should at least begin to work to put yourself in a posture to file it when you are ready. It is always better to be prepared and move when you are ready. Do not let panic cause you to rush something critical.
Always Speak to a Truck Accident Attorney About Your Case
If some time has already elapsed, you should still not be discouraged. It does not hurt to contact an attorney, no matter what. You will not get charged for an initial consultation. It may not be too late to hold someone legally accountable for the injuries they caused you or a loved one. A personal injury attorney will still learn more about your case and advise whether they think you have a valid cause of action.
Do not assume that you have no legal case on your own. You should let an attorney determine whether you have a valid cause of action. There is no risk to you in speaking with an attorney. There is more risk when you do not have the legal counsel and advice that an experienced truck accident attorney will provide you.
If your truck crash was recent, you should keep up with all of your medical appointments. Then, you should never waste time waiting to contact a lawyer. Many people sit at home and wonder whether they should get legal help, but they do not have to remain in such uncertainty. Instead, if you are in this position, you should reach out to a truck accident attorney right away.
The sooner you reach out to a lawyer in your area, the sooner you might relax knowing that you have financial help.