When Is it too Late to Get a Lawyer for a Car Accident?

when is it too late to get a lawyer for a car accident

Following a car accident, victims need to hire a qualified attorney as soon as possible before the state’s statute of limitations passes. The statute of limitations will vary depending on the state where the accident took place, and will dictate how long individuals have to file a claim or lawsuit against liable parties after a car accident.

It’s important to understand how statutes of limitations work, and how they may influence a case.

Statutes of Limitations for Car Accident Claims

Each state in the U.S. has a statute of limitations in place for car accidents and other personal injury cases. These are essentially deadlines that people have before they’re no longer able to seek compensation for damages following an accident. 

when is it too late to get a lawyer for a car accident

The U.S. has established statutes of limitations for several reasons, including

  • To make sure that personal injury claimants file their claims early on in a case while the evidence is still relatively new and more likely to remain valid
  • To keep civil courts from experiencing significant backlogs of personal injury cases
  • To protect dependencies from lawsuits or claims involving injuries that took place many years ago

The statute of limitations for car accident lawsuits is notably different from the amount of time individuals have to file insurance claims after an accident, but it’s important to keep in mind that the statute of limitations for a lawsuit could also affect the claims process.

Most car accidents, and other types of personal injury cases, don’t go beyond the claims process and settle long before a lawsuit takes place. However, some more complex cases and accidents involving multiple liable parties that make it harder to determine who is responsible may wind up in court. In these cases, if plaintiffs take way too long to file an insurance claim and the statute of limitations for a lawsuit passes, injured parties won’t be able to seek compensation from the liable parties involved. This is why it’s important to begin the claims process and get a motor vehicle accident attorney as soon as possible.

What Is the Statute of Limitations for Car Accidents in Nevada?

The statute of limitations for an accident case in Nevada depends on the type of case. Some cases involve injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident along with damages to personal property, each of which would involve two separate claims and corresponding deadlines.

Generally, individuals injured in car accidents and other motor vehicle accidents will have two years to file a claim or lawsuit from the time of the accident. If individuals wait for longer than two years, the court will likely dismiss their claims, and victims will no longer be able to recover the damages sustained. 

In addition, there is a two-year statute of limitations in place for wrongful death claims involving a car accident. The statute of limitations in these cases will start from the moment of the victim’s death, at which point, the victim’s family will have two years to file a lawsuit.

Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations

In some cases, injury victims may have longer to file a claim or lawsuit than what the statute of limitations dictates. For example, victims who were under the age of 18 at the time of the car accident won’t need to file a lawsuit until two years following their 18th birthday. However, the parents or legal guardians of the underage victim may be able to file a lawsuit on the child’s behalf.

Meanwhile, individuals will need to file a property damage claim within three years from the date of property damage or loss.

When to Begin the Filing Process

Typically, following any type of accident, injury victims should file their claim as soon as they can, which may entail hiring a car accident attorney. 

After connecting with an attorney, they will likely want to spend time building a case and collecting evidence to help develop a strong claim. This is often a time-consuming process that can take weeks, or even months.

Once the attorney has helped build a strong claim, he or she will be more likely to file a claim against the insurance carrier representing the liable party. From there, negotiations between attorneys and insurers can take as long as years to complete, with more complex cases involving higher stakes and questions around liability taking longer than simpler cases.

In rare instances, cases may not settle during the claims process, leading them to go to court in the form of a lawsuit.

Damages Involved in Car Accident Cases

In car accidents, there are different types of damages that victims may be able to recover via car accident claims or a lawsuit. These include a variety of economic and non-economic damages. 

Economic damages, also known as monetary or special damages, are those that come with specific amounts of money attached to them. For example, some types of economic damages could include medical bills, lost wages, lost earning capacity, property damage, and the cost of ongoing treatment, among others with a clear dollar amount.

Meanwhile, non-economic damages, i.e. non-monetary or general damages, are certain types of damages that are harder to calculate. These may include pain and suffering, which involves a certain degree of physical or mental distress that victims may experience. Additionally, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of consortium, and other types of anguish may count toward non-economic damages. To help calculate these, victims should record their personal experiences in pain diaries and other documentation to show how the aftermath of an accident has impacted their quality of living.

Some cases may also involve punitive damages, although the court rarely awards these. These damages punish the defendant for committing particularly egregious behavior and gross negligence with the hope of preventing similar behavior in the future. Punitive damages often consist of large sums, but the defendant must have practiced extreme negligence for these damages to come into play in a car accident case.

The variety of potential damages involved in car accident cases shows how important it is to get started on building a case before the statute of limitations approaches. It’s often challenging to identify and calculate all of the damages involved in a case, with attorneys potentially spending a lot of time on this aspect of the claims process. This is one of the main reasons why it’s necessary to get started on building a case as soon as possible after an accident. 

The Evidence Needed to Build a Claim

A successful car accident case requires plenty of proof to show that one or more defendants were liable for the accident and resulting injuries. This entails gathering ample evidence that proves liability, which is often a time-consuming and difficult process, particularly in cases involving serious injuries or multiple liable parties.

There are many types of evidence that plaintiffs will need to collect in car accident cases, including:

  • Photos and video footage of injuries and other damages
  • Witness testimony
  • Medical records and bills
  • Police reports
  • Driver’ information

Victims will also need to be able to prove all of the damages they sustained, including physical injuries and non-economic damages such as pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life. Without enough evidence, it will be extremely difficult for plaintiffs and their attorneys to prove liability and recover damages.

This is another key reason why it’s important to get started on building a case long before the statute of limitations arrives, as it can take months to gather an adequate amount of evidence to help prove who was liable and how.

Who Is Liable in a Car Accident?

In most car accident cases, it’s clear who was liable for the accident. Oftentimes, as in many rear-end collisions, a single driver acts negligently and causes a car accident, which victims can prove by gathering sufficient evidence.

However, not all car accident cases are this clear when it comes to liability. In some accident cases, passengers may be liable for distracting drivers or taking other steps to contribute to an accident. In other cases, multiple drivers may share fault as they acted negligently. 

Some cases can also make liability less obvious, such as cases involving ride-share drivers, passengers, and ride-share injuries. In these cases, ride-share drivers may be negligent, but liability could also fall on the company behind that driver, depending on the circumstances leading to the accident.

The fact that liability isn’t always easy to determine also makes it important to begin building a case soon after getting involved in an accident. The sooner victims begin building their case and working with an attorney, the sooner they’ll be able to determine who was liable and gather sufficient evidence to help prove liability.

How Long Do You Have to Get an Attorney After a Car Accident?

If individuals are curious about what to do after a hit-and-run accident in Las Vegas, or any other type of car accident, the best step to take is to begin building a case and seeking the help of an attorney as soon as possible following the initial accident.

In the state of Nevada, individuals have two years to file a personal injury claim from the date of the accident, while cases involving property damage allow for three. With the exception of cases involving minors and wrongful death, it’s important to keep these statutes of limitations in mind.

However, it’s also important for individuals to understand that attorneys may choose to decline to provide representation. If a case doesn’t seem viable, or appears particularly difficult to win, attorneys may not provide representation, which would require claimants to file a claim on their own. On the other hand, most personal injury attorneys provide free consultations to discuss a potential case. Even if an attorney ultimately decides not to take on a case, they can provide advice on how to proceed with a claim or other actions detailing the individual’s options. This can help them better understand the options available to them following any type of accident and injury.

If accident victims understand that they only have a limited amount of time to build a case, they’ll be more likely to act fast and increase their chances of success.