After sustaining an injury in a car accident, many victims consider filing a lawsuit against the at-fault driver to recover compensation for their medical bills, lost wages, car repairs for vehicle damage, and other expenses.
However, there is a deadline for filing a car accident claim. In Texas, there is a two-year statute of limitations for filing personal injury claims in civil court, which includes car accident claims.
When you retain a car accident attorney with the Francis Firm, we will ensure your personal injury claim is filed on time. Our attorneys know the statute of limitations for a car accident in Texas and how it may affect the timing of your claim.
Here's an overview of the time limit Texas law sets for car accident cases.
The Purpose of the Statute of Limitations
A statute of limitations is a law that limits the amount of time a car accident victim or victim of another personal injury has to file a motion against a defendant and begin legal proceedings.
The goal of the statute of limitations is to prevent frivolous lawsuits years after an incident has occurred. It also helps protect the integrity of evidence, which may degrade over time.
For car accidents, the deadline varies from state to state. As stated above, there is a two-year deadline for filing Texas car accident cases in civil court. Generally, if you were injured in a motor vehicle accident and decide to file a car accident lawsuit after the statute of limitations expires, the court will dismiss it and you will be unable to recover compensation through a legal claim. That's one reason why it's best for an injured person to retain an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after being involved in an automobile accident.
What Is the Car Accident Statute of Limitations for Texas?
According to Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code § 16.003, car accident lawsuits must be filed within two years of the date of the crash. Texas courts apply the same deadline in car accidents with no injuries.
However, if the victim of the car accident dies from their injuries, the rule is slightly different. In this case, the family has two years from the date of death to file a wrongful death claim.
Are There Any Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations in Texas?
While most cases must follow the Texas statute of limitations, some qualify for an exception depending on the situation. These exceptions can shorten or lengthen the start of the two-year limitations period. This makes it possible to bring an action after the typical limit.
In Texas, the court may grant an exception for a civil lawsuit if one of the following applies:
- The victim is mentally disabled or incapacitated—if the victim is in a coma or has any other issue that prevents them from making legal decisions, the clock starts once they are no longer incapacitated.
- The defendant leaves the state—in cases where the defendant leaves the state or is unavailable, the statute of limitations is tolled until they return.
- The victim is a minor—if the victim is a minor, the two-year statute of limitations starts on their 18th birthday. This means they have until their 20th birthday to file a lawsuit.
If any of these exceptions apply to your case, you might have extra time to bring legal action. However, our legal team highly recommends consulting an attorney as soon as possible after your accident. They'll help determine your best course of action based on the facts of your case.
What If the Accident Involves a Government Agency?
When a car accident involves a government employee or entity, the typical statute of limitations doesn't apply. Instead, government agencies have their own reporting requirements.
Under the Texas Tort Claims Act § 101.021, a government unit can be held liable for an injury in a car accident if:
- The employee that caused the injury did so while acting within the scope of their work, and
- The employee would have been liable if they were a private individual when the accident happened.
However, victims have a much shorter amount of time to file a claim.
According to § 101.101, a victim must give the government agency a notice of their claim within six months after the accident. The notice should include the damages claimed, the time/location of the crash, and a description of the events.
Despite this rule, some local governments set stricter limitations than the state requires. For example, the City of Houston has a 90-day time limit to file a claim against their government for a car accident injury.
In Austin, the limit is even shorter, requiring notices to be sent within 45 days. This is why it's essential to consult with a Texas car accident attorney immediately if your crash involves a government employee.
Do I Have to Make a Car Accident Claim with My Car Insurance Company?
An insurance claim is different from a legal claim. Most car insurance companies require policyholders to report motor vehicle accidents as soon as possible after the accident occurred. You should contact your insurance provider whether or not you are at fault for the accident. Failing to notify your insurance company may violate the terms of your contract.
Injured in a Texas Car Accident? Call the Francis Firm Today
If you have questions about your claim or the car accident statute of limitations for Texas, contact the Francis Firm. Our law firm advocates for accident victims from day one and knows the tactics used by insurance companies to minimize the value of a claim.
Whether you need help gathering evidence, finding witnesses, or negotiating a settlement for fair compensation, we're here to fight for your best interests.