How Long After an Accident Can You Claim Damages?
Each state’s law includes a statute of limitations, which provides a timeline for filing a personal injury claim. Different states have established different time periods—in Texas, for example, injured victims must initiate a personal injury action within two years of the date of the accident. However, there are exceptions for certain situations, including accidents that involve legally disabled individuals.
For example, an injured individual who is under the age of eighteen or who is found mentally incompetent to understand legal proceedings may be deemed legally disabled. In these cases, the statute of limitations is tolled, and does not begin to run until the injured party can legally file a lawsuit.
Of course, it is not always that simple. Most personal injury claims are initially filed against the responsible party’s insurance company. Insurance company policies may dictate a specific timeline within which injured parties may file a claim following an accident.
Commonly, insurance companies allow injured victims to initiate their claims within only thirty days of an accident. After the claim is initiated, the parties may engage in settlement negotiations to resolve the claim outside of court. If settlement negotiations prove unsuccessful, injured victims will still have ample time to file a personal injury lawsuit. Contact a Texas personal injury lawyer from The Law Offices of George Salinas to answer your legal questions today.
Working With an Insurance Company
As soon as possible after an accident, contact your insurance company and the other drivers’ insurance companies to inform them of your involvement in the accident. Since Texas uses a fault system for car accidents, the at-fault driver’s insurance will likely be required to pay accident-related damages.
In many cases, multiple parties may share liability for an accident. As a result, multiple insurance companies may need to pay damages. Additionally, in accidents involving two vehicles, even if you were not at fault, other parties may have contributed to causing the accident. In particular, accidents involving commercial vehicles typically involve other parties and their insurance providers.
When you contact an insurance company, provide your name, the time, date, and location of the accident, the appropriate policy number, and your attorney’s contact information. It is important to limit the amount of information you lend to insurance representatives. Insurance companies aim to limit their financial exposure in the event of an accident. Adjusters will use any information you give to deny your claim or discredit the extent of your damages. No matter how much the representative may insist, reiterate that you only intend to notify the provider that you are filing a claim. You may want to inform the representative that your attorney will contact them shortly should they have additional questions.
As you speak to the representative, document the content of your conversation. Include the date and time of the phone call, the representative’s name, and an outline of the conversation. To ensure you do not forget any part of the conversation, you may want to take notes while you speak with the representative.
When More Than One Party Shares Liability
Depending on the circumstances of the accident, more than one party may share liability for accident-related damages.
When commercial vehicles are involved, potentially liable parties may include:
- The driver.
- A maintenance company that maintains the vehicles.
- A repair company that repairs fleet vehicles.
- A dispatcher.
- A truck owner, if other than the driver.
- A lessor.
- A lessee.
- The company that employs the driver.
- A parts manufacturer.
- A vehicle manufacturer.
- A trailer manufacturer.
- Third-party inspectors, whether on the company payroll or hired by the company.
If you move out of the settlement phase and into litigation, each party that shares involvement will usually have their own insurance provider. Because insurance companies look out for their own best interests, each insurance provider has their own attorney. Before filing a personal injury claim, you must ensure that you identify and include all potentially liable parties.
Other Liable Entities
In some cases, whether the accident is with a private citizen or a commercial vehicle, neither party involved is liable for the accident. For example, if the roads are wet or icy, and the other driver’s car slides into yours, the driver may not be liable for the accident. The other driver may have been driving at a safe speed when they hit black ice or an oily spot, causing them to lose control.
In these cases, consult an attorney for advice on how to proceed. The best path for moving forward may depend on the specifics of your insurance policy, the other driver’s insurance policy, or a combination of both policies.
In the same situation, even if the road conditions are not optimal, but a driver lost control because they hit a pothole, city or county agencies may be liable. When a roadway hazard contributes to an accident, the local agencies responsible for roadway maintenance may share liability.
Additionally, a third vehicle, that may or may not be directly involved in the accident, could have caused the collision. Discuss this type of scenario with an attorney. When appropriate, an attorney may need to perform a thorough investigation of the accident to determine who is ultimately responsible for the damages you incurred. An investigation may reveal whether both drivers are responsible or if the third driver is wholly liable for accident-related damages.
In Texas, injured parties may be entitled to recover three types of damages: economic, non-economic, and punitive. Punitive damages are only awarded in particularly egregious situations, when the injured party can show the defendant was grossly negligent. Punitive damages are not intended to compensate victims for their losses. Rather they are a form of punishment intended to deter similar behavior in the future.
Defendants may need to pay special damages, or economic damages, and general damages, or non-economic damages, in an attempt to make injured victims whole again. Of course, compensation cannot heal injuries faster, erase pain and suffering, or bring a loved one back. However, financial compensation can relieve financial stress caused by accident-related damages.
Economic damages are tangible losses that have a dollar amount attached to them. Economic damages may include past and future medical expenses, cognitive, physical, and psychological therapy services, past and future lost wages, funeral and burial expenses, and replacement or repair of personal property.
Non-economic damages are intangible impacts that are more difficult to assign value. Damages may include pain and suffering, loss of companionship, loss of consortium, loss of use of a body part, loss of use of a bodily function, and disfigurement or scarring.
If you are suffering from injuries from a car accident, contact a personal injury lawyer today for a free consultation.