If you were injured in an automobile accident, filing a personal injury lawsuit may be the last thing on your mind. Instead, you may be focused on your more immediate needs, like going to doctor appointments, figuring out your work situation, and getting your car fixed. But if you wait too long to file a personal injury claim, you might not be able to seek compensation at all.
Generally, you have 3 years from the date of a car accident to file a personal injury lawsuit. If you don’t file a legal claim within that time period, then the at-fault party will likely be able to get your claim dismissed. An experienced Long Island car accident attorney can work with you to ensure that your car accident claim is filed on time.
At The Odierno Law Firm, we represent injury victims who have been hurt in all types of accidents. In each case, our goal is to help our clients get maximum compensation for their injuries. Reach out today to schedule a free initial consultation with our experienced car accident lawyers.
How the Statute of Limitations Applies to New York Car Accident Claims
The statute of limitations is a legal rule that essentially places a time limit on filing a claim. There are statutes of limitation for both criminal and civil cases. Within civil law, there are different statutes of limitation for different types of cases.
For personal injury claims, you have 3 years to file a personal injury lawsuit. In a car accident case, the clock starts running on the day of the crash. If you don’t file a claim within this time period, then you will likely be barred from doing so.
In most cases, the at-fault party (defendant) and their insurance company will file a motion to dismiss the lawsuit based on the statute of limitations. Unless your case falls within one of a few narrow exceptions to this rule, the court will likely grant this motion. Even if you suffered catastrophic injuries, you won’t be able to get financial compensation from the defendant if you miss this filing deadline.
There are some exceptions to the statute of limitations. First, if the injury victim is either under the age of 18 (infancy) or isn’t of sound mind (insanity), then the statute of limitations won’t begin to run until the legal “disability” is lifted. Second, if the defendant moves out of state for 4 months or longer or if they live in New York under a false name, the statute of limitations will be paused for that length of time.
For example, consider a situation where a girl was struck by a motor vehicle in a pedestrian accident on December 1, 2023. She was 12 at the time of the collision. Normally, she must file a lawsuit by December 1, 2026. However, because she was under the age of 18, the clock wouldn’t start running until her 18th birthday. If she turns 18 on March 12, 2029, then she will have until March 12, 2032 to file a lawsuit.
If the girl’s mother was hurt in the same accident, she will be limited to the 3-year statute of limitations – so if she doesn’t file a claim by December 1, 2026, she won’t be able to pursue financial compensation. However, if the at-fault driver moved out of New York for 2 years, then those 2 years won’t count towards the time period for statute of limitations purposes. The mother will then have until December 1, 2028, to file a lawsuit for her injuries related to the motor vehicle accident.
This rule may seem harsh, but it has an important purpose. As an initial matter, there is a basic issue of fairness at play. The legal system doesn’t want people to have to spend their lives worrying about a lawsuit for something that may have happened decades ago. This time limitation provides some measure of finality.
For accident victims, the statute of limitations is also important. Over time, witness memories fade and evidence can be lost. For this reason, it is in your best interest as an injury victim to file a lawsuit sooner rather than later if you have been hurt in a car accident.
Importantly, there is a shorter time limitation – and a different claims process – for filing a personal injury claim when a government agency is the defendant. If you are seeking compensation for a car accident from a city, state, county, town, or village in New York, a Notice of Claim must be filed within 90 days of the date of the crash. Any lawsuit must be filed within 1 year and 90 days of the date of the collision.
For example, imagine that you were in a bus accident when you were riding a city bus. Your New York personal injury attorney will need to file a Notice of Claim within 90 days with the agency that operates the bus line (such as the Metropolitan Transit Authority, or MTA). If you move forward with a lawsuit, then it will have to be filed within 1 year and 90 days of the crash.
The best way to protect your rights in a car accident claim is by reaching out to a Melville car accident lawyer as soon as possible. Your attorney will work with you to gather evidence and file a claim in a timely manner. In this way, you can be sure that you won’t waive important legal rights – and that you will be able to get the compensation that you deserve for your injuries.
Seeking Compensation for Car Accident Injuries
If another person or entity caused your motor vehicle accident, you can file a claim against them for your injuries. In some situations, you may not know that you were injured right away – or you may be too busy dealing with your medical issues to reach out to a lawyer immediately. However, the sooner you can consult with a personal injury law firm, the faster you will be able to start the legal process.
After a free initial consultation, your lawyer will get to work investigating the case. This may include interviewing witnesses, obtaining police reports, analyzing photos and videos of the accident scene, and requesting medical records. They will also research New York law to build the strongest possible claim.
With this information in hand, your attorney will send a demand letter to the at-fault driver’s insurance company. A demand letter sets out the facts of the case and the legal reasons why their insured is liable. It concludes with a demand for compensation (damages).
In a car accident case, you may seek three types of damages: economic, non-economic, and punitive damages. Economic and non-economic damages are available in any personal injury case, while punitive damages are only awarded in cases where the defendant acted intentionally or recklessly (such as a drunk driving accident).
Economic damages pay for direct financial losses. They may include things like medical expenses, future medical treatment, property damage, lost wages, and reduced earning capacity. Economic damages are proven through documentation like medical bills, pay stubs, invoices, and estimates.
Non-economic damages cover intangible losses – or things that you don’t get a bill for, but that are no less real and no less important. Non-economic damages may include pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, scarring, and disfigurement.
Finally, punitive damages are available in more unusual cases where the defendant acted intentionally or recklessly (instead of negligently). These damages are meant to punish a wrongdoer rather than compensate a victim. Punitive damages are awarded by a jury, and so are not usually part of a car accident settlement.
Your attorney will take all of these damages into consideration when putting together a demand letter. They will use their experience and consult with experts to develop a demand for compensation. For example, they may work with your treating physician or a vocational expert to determine what your future medical expenses may be or how your ability to work may be affected.
In many cases, the long-term impact of an accident may not be immediately apparent. It may be months or longer before your doctors better understand how these injuries will affect you. This reality will be taken into consideration by your attorney as they prepare your case.
Personal injury lawyers regularly represent clients who have suffered severe injuries. They understand how to take this into account while simultaneously protecting your legal rights. Your attorney can file a lawsuit to ensure that the deadline to do so is not missed – while continuing to negotiate with the insurance company and build a case for compensation.
Most personal injury claims are resolved via settlement. Depending on the nature of the injuries, whether liability is clear, and other factors, it could take weeks, months, or even years to negotiate an agreement. The important thing is to talk to a lawyer sooner rather than later in order to preserve your legal rights.
Consulting with a lawyer early in the process also means that you will likely get a settlement check sooner. While every case is different – and results are not guaranteed – you can’t get started negotiating a settlement until you start the claims process. If you want to resolve your case – and move forward with your life – then your best option is to talk to an attorney as soon as you are able to do so.
Importantly, even if a lawsuit is filed, it doesn’t mean that your case will go to trial. Instead, it is a way to ensure that the statute of limitations is met while continuing to negotiate a settlement. Negotiations will often continue up until the eve of trial.
If the insurance company refuses to offer a fair settlement, then your lawyer will make arguments, introduce evidence, and question witnesses before asking a jury to return a verdict in your favor. Remember: you will only get the opportunity to have your day in court if you are aware of the legal time limits for filing a claim. Be sure that you don’t delay and risk losing your right to pursue justice for your car accident.
Hurt in an Accident? Don’t Delay – Call Our Law Offices
Everyone reacts differently to traumatic events. While some people might immediately spring into action, calling lawyers and setting up appointments, others may retreat into themselves and focus on getting through each day. Neither response is bad – but it is important to understand that delaying too long might lead to you losing the right to file a lawsuit for your car accident.
Based in Melville, The Odierno Law Firm fights for the rights of injury victims throughout Long Island. We offer free initial consultations and handle all cases on a contingency fee basis – which means you never pay a fee unless we recover money for you. To learn more or to talk to a Long Island car accident lawyer, give us a call at 631-295-4149 or fill out our online contact form.
Will My Car Accident Case Really Be Dismissed If I Don’t File a Lawsuit in Time?
While there is no guarantee, your case will likely be thrown out of court if you don’t file a lawsuit within 3 years of the date of your car accident. Typically, the insurance company for the at-fault driver and their lawyers will file what is known as a motion to dismiss. A court will usually grant it unless there is some legal reason that your lawsuit was filed past the statute of limitations.
3 years may seem like a long time, but it can go quickly when you are focusing on other things. Contact The Odierno Law Firm to talk to a Long Island car accident attorney about your case.
The Adjuster Is Offering Me a Settlement. Should I Take It?
You should never accept a settlement offer from the insurance company without first talking to a lawyer. In most cases, this offer will be a lowball amount – and probably won’t be enough to cover your losses. While it can be tempting to get a check and move forward with your life, you will likely regret it.
If you are approached by an insurance adjuster, you should decline to talk to them and instead schedule a consultation with a Long Island personal injury attorney. They will handle negotiations on your behalf and help you get a fair settlement. Call The Odierno Law Firm to schedule an appointment with a member of our legal team.
The Odierno Law Firm, P.C., a personal injury firm serving the residents of Long Island, has been dedicated to helping the wrongfully injured recover the compensation that they deserve for the past 30 years. The legal team at our firm handles a wide variety of injury cases such as: auto accidents, medical malpractice, wrongful death and many more! Our firm understands how devastating it can be to suffer a serious injury at the hands of a negligent party or individual, and for this reason, we do whatever we can to help our clients obtain the justice that they are looking for. If you have been involved in an accident and you believe that someone else is responsible for causing your injuries, do not hesitate to contact an experienced lawyer from our firm today. We offer a free consultation to anyone that is looking for answers.