How Long Do I Have to File a Personal Injury Case After My Car Accident?

There are time limits on filing personal injury lawsuits no matter if the injury suffered was due to a car accident, medical malpractice, unsafe working conditions or any other cause. These time limits are mandated by law and are known as the statute of limitations. If a lawsuit is not properly filed within this limited time period the claim may be permanently barred, meaning that there will be no possibility of pursuing damages for a personal injury that was not your fault. 

The statute of limitations varies from state to state and can be anywhere between one to six years. Here in Oklahoma, the standard time limit for personal injury lawsuits is two years. This means that you have up to two years to file a personal injury claim after a car accident. However, this does not necessarily mean that the two-year statute of limitations begins from the date of the car accident itself since there are some exceptions which effectively ‘pause’ the clock.

Oklahoma Car Accident Laws

Information about the statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits in Oklahoma, which applies to car wrecks, can be found in section 12-95 of the Oklahoma Statutes. It states that two years are given from the ‘date of harm’ to ask the courts for a civil remedy for a personal injury. In most instances, this means that you have two years from the date of a car wreck to file a lawsuit.

There are some exceptions that extend the deadline for filing a lawsuit. The first is if the injured party is under a “legal disability”, meaning that they are either under the age of 18 and therefore a minor, or if they have been declared “not of sound mind” or mentally incompetent by a court or another authority. Once the period of legal disability ends, either because the injured party has turned 18 or they have been declared legally competent, the individual has up to one year to file a personal injury lawsuit.

The second exception is if the person who allegedly caused the injury – the defendant – conceals themselves or goes out of state before a lawsuit is filed against them. In this instance, the period of concealment or absence is usually not counted as part of the two-year time limit.

Time Is Not on Your Side After a Car Wreck

Two years might seem like a long time to file a personal injury lawsuit but it can soon fly by, particularly if you’re dealing with medical appointments and treatments while in recovery from the injury. It can also take time to find the right lawyer and to pull together all the information required to file a lawsuit. You should certainly not wait until the last possible moment to file a lawsuit in case complications result in a delay in the filing of your claim.

There are some instances where an injury is not discovered until long after a car accident and in these cases, the two-year statute of limitations may not begin until the date on which the injury was discovered. For example, if you were involved in a car wreck on March 1 and did not discover any injury until November 1 of the same year, it could be argued that the two-year time limit runs from November 1 rather than March 1.

However, it is important to note that a delay in the discovery of an injury must be considered reasonable by the court. For example, if you were in an accident on March 1 and, despite experiencing symptoms of injury, did not pursue medical treatment until November, the date of harm would likely be determined as of March 1 since that is when medical treatment should realistically have been sought. However, if you did not experience any symptoms of injury on the date of the accident, March 1, but in a routine health check on November 1 an injury was discovered that was caused by the earlier car accident, it may be feasible to determine November 1 as the date on which harm was discovered and therefore the date from which the two-year statute of limitations began.

Remember, a judge must agree that the delay in discovering the injury was reasonable. If they believe that harm could reasonably have been discovered at an earlier date, they may deem the case to be untimely and dismiss it. For this reason, it is safest to seek the support of a lawyer as soon as possible after a car accident so that you can understand exactly how much time you have to file a personal injury lawsuit.

When to Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer After a Car Accident

If you have been injured in a car wreck it is important to remember that the individual that caused the accident most likely already has a lawyer on their side courtesy of their insurance company. Their lawyer is likely to be extremely experienced in dealing with car accident injury claims and their goal is to have the insurance company pay out as little to you as possible. It can be incredibly tough to go up against a lawyer of this kind without your own attorney fighting your corner. The odds of getting the compensation you deserve are slim without the representation of a reputable personal injury lawyer.

If you need an attorney after being involved in a car wreck or you’re looking for legal advice for a personal injury situation, please call Giles Law P.C. to arrange a free consultation.