When you have suffered an injury in a truck accident, you may have a right to financial compensation if you can prove that someone else was to blame for what happened. However, there are various rules that you need to follow to qualify for a settlement check, one being the statute of limitations. If you miss the deadline, it will have disastrous consequences for your case, and you must prove that an exception applies to retain your right to compensation. Thus, it is vital to contact a lawyer now to begin the legal process.
The statute of limitations is a function of state law, and each has a deadline for you to file a lawsuit. In many states, the deadline is two years, while it can be longer in others. Some states have a different statute of limitations for wrongful death cases.
You must be aware of all aspects of the legal process early in your case. An experienced Dallas truck accident lawyer will review your case and counsel you on your legal rights.
When the Statute of Limitations Begins to Run in Your Truck Accident Case?
The statute of limitations in a truck accident case begins to run when you have suffered an injury, which is most likely the crash date. Usually, you will suffer severe injuries and know that you need immediate medical attention. However, some truck accident injuries may take some time to show symptoms. If there was no way to have known that you had suffered an injury before then, the statute of limitations may begin to run when you discover your injuries.
The statute of limitations is a complex and fast deadline, and it does not matter whether you miss it by a day or a year. If you miss it, your legal rights will expire. You do not want to miss out on financial compensation because you were not tracking your deadlines and acted too late.
What Happens When You File a Lawsuit Late?
There is no margin for error when filing a truck accident lawsuit. If you miss the statute of limitations, the defendant will likely file a motion with the court, requesting they dismiss the case. They can also include cutting the statute of limitations as an affirmative defense when they file an answer to the complaint.
Even if the defendant does not raise the statute of limitations issue alone, the judge may choose to address it because courts are hesitant about hearing a case they do not have the right to review. The judge can order the parties to brief the issue before dismissing the case, and if you are in this position, chances are that your lawsuit is already in big trouble.
If the court dismisses the case, you will not make it to the discovery process or the jury.
You can only appeal the dismissal at that point because the statute of limitations has expired. The appellate court will be limited to only that issue, and if the trial court made an error, the appeals court can reverse the decision and remand the case back to the original court for the trial to proceed.
The Policy Reasons Behind the Statute of Limitations
Personal injury law tries to balance the interests of plaintiffs and defendants, and the statute of limitations exists to protect defendants because liability for their actions should not be open-ended.
If there is no statute of limitations, defendants can be surprised with a lawsuit anytime, even after they no longer expect to be sued. They may not have enough time to gather evidence to present their case, and you have an unfair advantage over them at trial because you still have access to your proof and witnesses.
The statute of limitations prevents malicious and harassing lawsuits, and a very late filing can be a nuisance to the defendant.
In addition, if you wait too long to file, you will face many complications. You may lose evidence if your case relies on witness testimony because it becomes more challenging to track witnesses down, and their recollections will fade. In addition, your physical evidence can either disappear or become less persuasive.
You may have difficulties locating the defendant in the future. Trucking companies routinely go out of business, and you may be unable to find the truck driver to testify at a trial. In that way, the statute of limitations is also helpful to you.
Therefore, your legal rights will expire, and the defendant will no longer have to worry about a lawsuit (under most circumstances) when the statute of limitations runs out.
Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations
Some events may toll the statute of limitations, which means there is a suspension of the time clock.
The following may be exceptions to the statute of limitations:
- The defendant is being evasive and not allowing you to serve them with court papers.
- The defendant has left the state.
- You were a minor at the time of your injury (each state has its own rules about any extra time a minor has to sue. Some begin the statute of limitations once the minor turns 18).
- The defendant engaged in fraud that kept you from learning that you had a cause of action.
- You had a disability that prevented you from filing a lawsuit.
You have the burden of proof to show that an exception to the statute of limitations is valid. Courts take these deadlines very seriously because they are not trying to expand their jurisdiction. If you argue that an exception to the statute of limitations applies, you are already in a precarious legal position.
Seeking Legal Counsel for Timely Action
You should only be running up against the statute of limitations because of ongoing negotiations to settle your truck accident lawsuit. Otherwise, you should always file quickly because a truck accident lawsuit can take years from start to finish. You want to begin the legal process immediately because getting your money may take considerable time.
If you hire a lawyer, they will counsel you on the relevant deadlines in your case and ensure that you meet them. They will also determine whether an exception to the statute of limitations applies if necessary.
You Do Not Want to Rush Your Case
Truck accident lawyers will advise you to take action now to avoid missing the statute of limitations, but your lawyer also needs time to work on your case. They will need time to investigate because of the complexity of truck accident cases. Your attorney may be working with multiple sources of evidence that they need to gather to draft a solid legal complaint.
If you rush your complaint, you run the risk that critical facts that can support your case may be missing. The defendant may file a motion to dismiss your case early, and if there are inadequate factual grounds in your complaint, the court may dismiss your case.
Your lawyer may need to obtain or review the following forms of evidence to give you the strongest possible case:
- Testimony from witnesses who saw the crash
- Pictures from the scene of the accident
- Testimony from an accident reconstruction expert
- Data from the truck's black box that can show how the vehicle was traveling at the time of the accident
- Inspection and maintenance records from work on the truck
- The driver's records
Give Your Lawyer Time to Do Their Job Effectively
The key is to contact a lawyer early to give them enough time to do their job because if you wait too long, it will be much more difficult for your lawyer to compile a strong case. Your lawyer may try to negotiate a settlement with the insurance company without filing a lawsuit. They can file a lawsuit sometime after the accident if the insurance company is not reasonable during settlement negotiations. Alternatively, your lawyer can lead the legal process with a lawsuit and negotiate a settlement as your case progresses.
If your case goes to trial, it may take several years, and the discovery process alone can take many months. Then, if the defendant loses the trial, they may appeal the verdict against them. You should begin the legal process relatively early, knowing you may have to wait a long time to get your money.
Why You Need a Lawyer in a Truck Accident Case
Truck accident cases are high-stakes legal proceedings because you have likely suffered severe injuries. In addition, the trucking company probably has an extensive insurance policy and assets to pay for your damages, and it is not uncommon for truck accident victims to recover $1 million or more in compensation. With that in mind, the insurance and trucking companies may do everything possible to make your case more difficult.
One of the crucial pieces of information you need is your case's value. You may only know how much you can get for your injuries with an attorney, who will work with experts to learn the value of your case before you file a claim or lawsuit.
Then, your attorney will pressure the insurance company to pay you what you deserve and may file a lawsuit on your behalf. Your lawyer can reject any unfair settlement offer and negotiate for you as you seek compensation.
Cost Is Not an Issue When Hiring a Lawyer
The one thing that should not stand in the way of getting the legal guidance you need is worries about paying an attorney. In a contingency agreement, your lawyer's compensation depends on your own, and they will receive a percentage of your settlement check or jury award. The exact rate is in the terms of your agreement with your lawyer. If you do not receive financial compensation, you do not owe your lawyer any money.
The time to call a lawyer in your case is now because you need legal advice and protection from the trucking and insurance companies. Before you know it, you may have made a mistake that jeopardizes your entire legal case. Hiring an attorney early in the process can help protect your legal rights and preserve your right to financial compensation.
Your Truck Accident Lawyer Can Send a Demand Letter to Preserve Evidence for Your Claim
While the statute of limitations is always a concern, it is not the only reason time is of the essence when beginning the legal process. The longer you wait to take action, the more difficult it may be to gather the necessary evidence to support your case. That's where hiring a lawyer can make all the difference.
Your truck accident attorney can send a demand letter to the responsible parties and their insurance companies, putting them on notice that you intend to pursue legal action and preserve the evidence related to your claim.
The demand letter serves as a formal request for the preservation of crucial evidence such as accident reports, surveillance footage, maintenance and inspection records, driver logs, and any other relevant documentation. By sending this letter, your lawyer ensures that the responsible parties are aware of their legal obligation to preserve this evidence. This is vital because, without it, it can be challenging to prove liability and demonstrate the extent of your damages.
Having an experienced attorney handle this process ensures that the demand letter is appropriately prepared and delivered to the right parties. This not only acts as a safeguard for preserving the evidence, but it also shows the other parties that you are serious about your claim. It sets the tone for the legal proceedings and lets them know that you are prepared to pursue your case aggressively.
Consult a Truck Accident Attorney Near You Today
When filing a truck accident claim, act quickly and hire a Texas personal injury lawyer who can send demand letters and identify the deadline for your case under the statute of limitations. Consultations are free with no risk to you, and you can learn about your best legal options for compensation. This consultation can give you peace of mind, as you know what to expect following your accident and injuries.