Personal Injury Lawsuits and the Statute of Limitations
When you are injured in an accident, the last thing you want to think about is a lawsuit and all of the complicated details that go with it. Unfortunately, when you're unable to work, unable to care for yourself, unable to support your family, and experiencing the pain and suffering that go with the accident, your injuries, and your recovery, a lawsuit may be the best thing you can do for yourself and your family. But filing a lawsuit is not as easy as filling out a few forms and clicking the send button. There are many rules, regulations, and laws that surround personal injury lawsuits. One of the most critical aspects of the law to be aware of is the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations frequently presents problems for the unprepared and may make it more difficult for you to receive the help and compensation you need in order to make a full recovery from your injuries.
The statute of limitations is the legal timeframe set by the justice system that provides a deadline for filing a personal injury lawsuit. The statute of limitations in Arizona is rarely flexible and if you are injured in an accident, it is up to you to file your personal injury lawsuit within the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations will vary depending on multiple factors, though the two most common factors impacting the length of the statute of limitations are the type of legal claim that's being made and the type of accident involved in the claim.
You may have heard of statutes of limitations before if you pay attention to the news or watch television shows. There are statutes of limitations for all types of criminal and civil cases. In the majority of cases, the statute of limitations begins once the accident has occurred and the injury has been sustained. In some special circumstances, the statute of limitations begins when the injury is discovered. For example, if your injuries caused you to fall into a coma and the extent of your injuries was discovered only upon waking from that coma, your Phoenix personal injury attorney may be able to reset the clock on the statute of limitations.
The general statute of limitations for an Arizona personal injury accident lawsuit is typically two years. However, you should never wait two years to file your lawsuit. The problem with the statute of limitations is that although two years is the general guideline for filing a lawsuit, this isn't always true. The statute of limitations for your case can be adjusted according to various factors. Some personal injury cases have to be filed in less than six months—that is 180 days, which can be problematic for many reasons. It is important to also note that the statute of limitations for personal injury accident cases involving minors may be longer than for those involving adults, and the statute of limitations for cases involving businesses and public or civil entities may be much shorter. If your lawsuit involves medical malpractice, an entirely separate set of statutes of limitation may apply to the incident.
You should file your personal injury accident lawsuit the moment any injury has been discovered. In most accident injury cases, you will know within several days that you have sustained serious injuries. If the filing of your case is delayed and you fail to meet the statute of limitations, you will be required to prove that your filing is reasonable. One circumstance in which late filing may be reasonable includes medical malpractice cases where a surgical object was left inside one's body and not discovered until after the statute of limitations had expired. Late filing may also be appropriate when your child was injured in an accident and the extent of the damage was not discovered until they had finished growing.
If you were involved in a personal injury accident in Arizona and you need to file a lawsuit, you may think that you have plenty of time to do so. However, the statute of limitations can cause a number of problems for you along the way. If you have six months in which to file your case, you may think that this is plenty of time. However, in that timeframe, there is a great deal of work to be done. Personal injury accident lawsuits require a great deal of work: documents need to be collected, paperwork needs to be filled out, depositions need to be taken, etc.
Additionally, finding and serving the negligent party can take time, especially if you are unsure whether there is only one negligent party or if multiple parties must be named in the lawsuit. Multiple parties may be involved if you were involved in a traffic accident with a semi truck, a construction vehicle, or other types of public service vehicles. Determining all of the negligent parties may take weeks or even longer, and time is of the essence when dealing with a personal injury accident case.
The law requires personal injury lawsuits be filed within the statute of limitations to ensure that a fair and equitable trial or negotiation process be used in every case. A timely evaluation of your personal injury case ensures that your memory—and the memories of the negligent party or parties and any witnesses—remain fresh, and that documents and other evidence pertaining to the case remain intact and available.
If you wait too long to file your personal injury lawsuit, you may miss your chance to file within the statute of limitations or you may experience other complications that could jeopardize your case. Building a strong case for a personal injury lawsuit requires a great deal of time, and the longer you put off building your case or speaking with a qualified personal injury lawyer, the less time you have to prepare the required documents and case materials.
Additionally, if you wait a long time to build and submit your case, you may lose track of witnesses, documents, photographs, doctors, and other evidence. Witnesses who are able to be located may no longer wish to participate in the case or may not be able to remember the details. Waiting to start the evaluation of your case is never an option because it invariably always leads to a weaker case, and you may end up losing your ability to get a fair settlement or any settlement at all, leaving you and your family to absorb the costs, pain, and suffering associated with your accident without help.
If you fail to file your personal injury accident lawsuit within the statute of limitations, your case will be barred from adjudication and you will be unable to seek compensatory damages from the person or entity responsible for your injuries.
According to ARS 12-542, the statute of limitations for personal injury applies to injuries to a person, injury that leads to the death of a person, damage to personal property, forced entry, forced detainment, and unlawful conversion of property. The general statute of limitations on these situations in the state of Arizona is two years, though other mitigating factors may alter this timeframe. The scenarios covered by the two-year statute of limitations in Arizona may include the following:
- Medical malpractice causes and actions defined in ARS 12-561
- The death of a person caused by injuries inflicted by another person
- Trespass on private property that causes injury to the estate and property of another person
- Theft of goods from another person
- Taking another person's property and using it as your own
- Forcible entry into the home of, or forcible detainment of, another person, and in this case, the statute of limitations begins on the start of the forcible entry or detainment
It is important to remember that if you are involved in an accident where you do not suffer personal bodily harm, a personal injury attorney may not be the right party to help you. However, in cases where both property and personal harm were sustained, your personal injury attorney can assist you with both and ensure that all aspects of your case are reviewed prior to the end of the statute of limitations. In many cases, property damage and personal injury go together. For example, if you are injured in a car crash, it is highly likely that your vehicle has also sustained damages. Your attorney can help you settle your case for compensation that will cover all expenses related to your injury accident.
After a serious accident, many people elect to move forward with a lawsuit on their own. But in a large number of these cases, the injury victim loses out on the settlement that they deserve, either because they do not understand how to negotiate for what they need or because their case passes the statute of limitations. A personal injury lawyer can help you not only get your lawsuit on track, but also keep it on track, and ensure that your case is filed in the appropriate court of law before the statute of limitations runs out.
A skilled personal injury attorney will assist you by collecting evidence, speaking with your insurance company, working with your doctors, filling out paperwork, liaising with the defendant's lawyer, and negotiating for a settlement that will cover both current and future accident-related expenses. Without an attorney, it will be your responsibility to fill out and file paperwork, have the negligent party served, work out a fair settlement, negotiate with your doctors and bill collectors, and find a way to pay your bills while you are in recovery.
If you were injured in an accident, you should seek legal help to ensure that you are able to file your case within the statute of limitations. The Husband & Wife Law Team understands the frustration that comes with a serious accident and can help you work through the paperwork, talk to the right people, and build a strong case that will ensure a fair settlement. They will cover all aspects of your case by talking to witnesses, working out a payment plan or negotiating with your medical providers, helping you to find ways to pay the bills and support your family while you are unable to work, and litigating your case so you receive the best settlement possible for your injuries. They can help you deal with the stress of your recovery and help both you and your family learn to cope with the immediate and drastic changes that often accompany serious injuries.
You don't have to go through your recovery or take care of your medical bills and lawsuit by yourself. The attorneys at The Husband & Wife Law Team can help you protect your rights and move on with your life. Call (602) 457-6222 for a free consultation today with attorneys Alexis and Mark Breyer.
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