How Long After a Car Accident Can You Claim Injury?
In 2018, 3,636 people died in vehicle crashes, according to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). Many more, 249,241, were injured. People can be severely injured in a car crash, and require months of doctor’s visits and hospitalizations. Car accident injuries can cause you to miss work or may even be severe enough that you are no longer able to work, or need to be retrained for another occupation. The effect can, therefore, devastate both to your personal health and your family’s finances.
The Statute of Limitations
It is possible to recover compensation for these and other losses if a Texas car accident injured you, but you need to bring a claim before the statute of limitations expires. The statute of limitations is a legal term, and refers to how long after a car accident an injured person can bring a legal claim to be compensated for injuries. In Texas, the statute of limitations is two years after the date of the accident. After that, the court will not hear a case related to your injuries.
Although the law states injured people have two years, the best course of action is to discuss the matter with an experienced car accident lawyer as soon as possible. Why? Getting fairly compensated for injuries and other damage from car accidents often requires finding how the accident occurred, so that fault can be assessed properly.
If the other driver ran a red light through an intersection and hit your car, for example, that means the driver is at fault for the accident. But a legal case needs evidence of what happened. A police report, evidence of physical damages to the people, and the way cars were damaged are all among potential instances of evidence.
Evidence is best when it is still fresh. If injured people wait, government crews may fix roadway markings and damaged barriers, while skid marks could fade. Injuries may heal and people may repair damage to vehicles.
When Do I Have to Report an Accident?
Texas has specific laws requiring the reporting of an accident and the exchange of information between drivers after an accident. Reporting an accident can help investigators, because a report can be preliminary evidence. Exchanging information can help both parties receive appropriate compensation for damages from the accident. After a crash, drivers should pull over in a safe place, and exchange their name, address and contact details, driver’s license number, license plate numbers of all vehicles involved, and auto insurance information for the motorists involved.
It is always a good idea to call the police when a car accident has happened. A police report will contain information about what happened, why, where, and any other relevant factors, such as time of day, weather, and traffic conditions.
If an accident occurs in which police are not called, drivers are mandated to complete and submit a Driver’s Crash Report to TxDOT within 10 days if the accident caused an injury, a death, or property damage of at least $1,000.
Although these are various types of reports that are required, they have nothing to do with the statute of limitations governing how long an injured person has to report an injury. Injured people may not know the full extent of their injuries right after a crash. The injured need to be seen by a doctor. In addition, there are many injuries whose symptoms do not surface right away, such as damage to soft tissue.
How Do I Get Compensated for Injuries in a Texas Car Accident?
Texas is an at-fault state for car accidents. That means that the insurance company of the driver who caused the accident pays for your injuries and property damage, through their insurance. This is very different from states that have “no-fault” insurance. In those states, your own insurance first pays for injuries and other damage, no matter who is at fault. Again, that is not the case in Texas. Compensation depends on who is at fault.
All drivers in Texas are required to carry car insurance in case of accidents and injuries. Right now, the minimum liability coverage required is $30,000 for every injured person, as much as $60,000 per accident, and $25,000 for property damage for each accident. In other words, the at-fault party in a car accident is responsible for compensating injured people for both injuries and damage to property. Usually, these claims are handled through the insurance company. That is one of the reasons drivers should always exchange contact information on insurance companies.
There are times, though, when insurance companies dispute who was at fault, or deny valid claims for other reasons. An attorney experienced in car accidents can help you negotiate with insurance companies to obtain a fair settlement.
Filing a Personal Injury Suit
What if the insurance settlement is not fair, and not enough to cover the damages you sustained in the accident?
You can bring a personal injury suit if it’s reasonable to assume that the at-fault driver was negligent. All drivers owe a duty of care to other people on the roads—to drive reasonably and safely, obeying laws and paying attention to traffic conditions. Negligence means that the driver breached the duty of care and drove in an unsafe, unreasonable, or illegal manner. The negligent behavior needs to have caused the accident for a personal injury suit to be successful.
In a personal injury case, the injured person(s) can sue for economic damages, such as medical bills and wages lost from work. These can be not only medical bills already incurred, but potential medical bills stemming from the accident in the future.
Injured people can also receive damages for noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering.
If a person died as a result of the car accident, it is possible to bring a wrongful death suit to be compensated for certain expenses.
If you need further information or assistance about the rights of those injured in a car crash, a licensed auto accident attorney can help.