I was Hurt in a Wreck! How Long Do I Have to File a Lawsuit?
Like other states, Virginia limits the amount of time that car accident victims have to file a lawsuit following an accident. The amount of time is found in our statute of limitations.
As seasoned car accident lawyers in Virginia Beach, we often hear clients wrongly state that they have an unlimited amount of time to file. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, if you delay for too long, you will lose your right to sue forever. Please contact Breit Law, PC today for help.
Virginia’s Statute of Limitations
You can find Virginia’s statute of limitations at Va. Code § 8.01-243. In any car accident case, you will probably have two claims—one for bodily injuries and the other for property damage. These two claims have different limitations periods:
- For bodily injury, you have two years from the date you are injured to file.
- For the property damage claim, you have five years from the date of the accident.
Please do not confuse the two claims. If you suffered any bodily injury, such as a fracture or burn or even PTSD, you must make a claim within two years. You only get up to five years for the property damage component of any case.
For example, imagine you are struck in an intersection on June 1, 2020. Your car is damaged, and you break your leg and suffer a concussion. To sue for the personal injuries, you must file suit by June 1, 2022. For the car damage, however, you have until June 1, 2025.
Consequences of Delay
Let’s say you don’t file a lawsuit within two years. What then?
Actually, this nightmare scenario is something far too many people experience. When victims pass the limitations period, the defendant can submit a motion to the court and ask the judge to dismiss the case. And, in most situations, a judge will do just that. Your case gets dismissed “with prejudice,” which means you cannot file it again later.
These are the harsh consequences of failing to follow the statute of limitations. Even going one day over can completely gut your case, leaving you with no compensation.
Exceptions in Limited Circumstances
The statute of limitations will be “tolled” in certain narrow situations. Essentially, this means that the clock is stopped for a certain amount of time because it would be unfair not to give the victim more time.
Some situations that will toll the statute of limitations include:
- The defendant committed fraud. For example, the other driver might have given you a wrong name and insurance information, hoping to avoid responsibility for the accident.
- The victim is under 18 years of age. Minors often get more time to file a lawsuit.
- The victim is disabled, such as being incapacitated by the accident. It would be unfair to expect someone disabled to file as quickly.
Nevertheless, do not assume that you qualify for one of the exceptions listed above. We strongly encourage you to meet with an auto accident lawyer in Virginia Beach as soon as possible. Your lawyer can analyze the facts and get a lawsuit filed quickly, if necessary, to protect your rights.
Why Does Virginia Have a Statute of Limitations?
Although having a strict limitations period might seem unfair, it does serve a purpose. Virginia judges do not want to decide cases based on stale evidence. If a victim could sit and wait to sue, then witnesses could disappear and other evidence could evaporate. Cases would be decided on incomplete records, which could prejudice a defendant. To make trial fairer for all parties involved, victims must diligently advance their interests by filing suit in a timely manner.
Call an Injury Attorney in Virginia Beach
Breit Law encourages everyone involved in collisions to speak with an attorney at the first available opportunity. We offer a free consultation to make the process as painless as possible.