When Is It Too Late To Get a Lawyer for a Car Accident?

Reviewed By Adam Ramirez, J.D.

Editor

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Car accidents are stressful. It is normal to feel overwhelmed as you heal from injuries, cope with emotional trauma, and deal with insurance and repair bills. If you tried to manage everything on your own, you may be wondering whether it is too late to get a lawyer.

In many cases, a personal injury lawyer is still able to help even when you didn’t hire them right away. We’ll walk through the challenges your lawyer will face, and help you decide whether you should be making a call to a lawyer for your case.

Legal Deadlines: Statute of Limitations

One of the primary deadlines you need to consider is the statute of limitations in your state. This law sets the maximum amount of time you have to file a lawsuit after a car accident. In most states, the statute of limitations is either two or three years. It can be as short as one year (Louisiana and Tennessee), or as long as six years (North Dakota).

If you miss the statute of limitations deadline, then you may be barred from starting a legal claim. However, there are circumstances where the deadline is longer than a few years from the car accident. For example, most statute of limitations laws allow the time to run from the date you became aware of an injury. If you weren’t aware that you suffered an injury at the time of the accident, your deadline wouldn’t start until you became aware.

The best way to know for certain whether your claim can meet the statute of limitations is to consult with a lawyer. Fill out the form on this page to get started today.

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Navigating Insurance Laws: No-fault vs. At-fault Systems

Different states have different insurance systems. The system in place in your state can strongly impact your options after a car accident. The two main types of insurance systems are no-fault and at-fault. The system in place is established by state laws.

No-fault States

In a no-fault state, drivers are required to turn to their own insurance companies for compensation no matter who was at fault for the accident. These states require drivers to carry personal injury protection (PIP) insurance.

There are 12 no-fault states:

  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • New Jersey
  • North Dakota
  • Pennsylvania
  • Utah

In these states you usually cannot bring a lawsuit against the other driver for injury compensation except in limited cases of serious injuries. As a result, you may be tempted to settle your car accident claim without a lawyer. However, it can still be a good idea to hire a lawyer in these states.

Lawyers in no-fault states can help you negotiate with your insurance company to ensure you get fair compensation. They can also help with cases of serious injury that might allow for legal action against the party that harmed you.

At-fault States

In states that follow at-fault insurance laws, the driver who was at fault for the accident is responsible for compensating those they harmed. Typically, this means that you file a third party claim for compensation through the insurance company that insured the at-fault driver.

In at-fault states, it is common to need assistance navigating insurance claims. Since fault is at the heart of compensation decisions, it is crucial that you be able to prove who caused the car accident. Lawyers in these states are well-versed in how to collect evidence after a car accident and demand appropriate compensation from insurance companies.

When You Need a Lawyer After a Car Accident

Consulting with a lawyer as soon as possible after a car accident is a good idea in many scenarios, including:

  • If you sustained significant injuries in the crash
  • If there is disagreement over who was at fault
  • When the other driver is a commercial truck driver
  • If the accident involved a motorcyclist, bicyclist, or pedestrian
  • When the accident occurs in a construction zone
  • When recovering from the accident causes you to lose work income

Even if you did not find yourself in one of the above scenarios, or if you initially thought you didn't need a lawyer, things can change. For example, consider consulting with a car accident lawyer if the settlement offer you receive from insurance does not seem fair. You don’t have to hire a lawyer immediately for them to be effective.

Ready to get help? Fill out the form on this page for a free case evaluation.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • It is still a good idea to consult with a lawyer, even after a car accident that is your fault. This is especially true if you suffered injuries or if you believe someone else was also partially at fault. Causing a crash could leave you facing unexpected bills and legal liability. Consulting with a lawyer will help protect your rights and ensure you are treated fairly.

  • The average settlement for a minor car accident is $12,875. Many factors can influence the value of a car accident case, such as injury severity, missed wages, and emotional trauma. As a result, the best way to determine the value of your own case is to consult with a car accident lawyer.

  • In many states, a lawsuit for injury or death must be filed within two years. However, the statute of limitations that sets this deadline could be shorter or longer in your state. There are also exceptions that can provide more time, such as for cases involving children. The best way to know whether your case is still eligible for legal action is to speak with a car accident lawyer. Fill out the form on this page to get help today.

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