The statute of limitations is the deadline for filing a lawsuit. Most lawsuits MUST be filed within a certain amount of time. In general, once the statute of limitations on a case “runs out,” the legal claim is not valid any longer.
The period of time during which you can file a lawsuit varies depending on the type of legal claim. For instance, the statute for personal injury cases is generally 2 years from the date of injury. However, if the injury was not discovered right away, the statute is 1 year from the date that the injury was discovered. Figuring out when the statute of limitations runs out on a claim can get complicated and failing to properly calculate may cause irreparable harm on the ability to bring a claim. So, if you have any doubts about how to calculate the time you have it would be a great idea to speak to an experienced personal injury as soon as possible.
Common Mistakes People Make When They are Injured
- Leave an Accident Scene. Under California law, a person has to stop, whether the accident involved a pedestrian, a moving vehicle, or even a parked vehicle, and if they leave the scene for any reason, they can be charged with a hit-and-run, even if the accident wasn’t their fault. The penalties can include jail, a fine, and the loss of their driver’s license. So, if you are involved in any type of accident, even if you only hit a parked car or some property and cannot find the owner or the driver, you would be well advised to leave behind your name, address, explanation of the accident and the name and address of the car’s owner in a conspicuous place, and then immediately contact the local police or the California Highway Patrol, or even call 911. You should try to make sure that there is documentation stating there was an accident, and one way to do that is to get a police report. Even if the police don’t come to the scene of the accident (since there was no injury or death) they would still write a report.
- Privately Attempting to Resolve an Accident Claim. Sometimes, people forget or simply do not call the police because they believe they feel that they can reach an agreement with the other party without dealing with police, or they believe they can just let the insurance handle everything. However, this can quickly turn out to be a bad idea. People involved don’t really know each other. There is no way to know for you to know if the other party’s insurance is current or if such an accident is covered. In fact, you should consider that there are people out there that carry a fake or expired insurance card. Not calling police will expose you to a greater risk, which you won’t have after calling the police or insurance.
- Losing Your Cool. At times, people forget to keep their cool; it is very easy to get into an argument with the other driver about who’s responsible for the accident and who’s at fault. However, it would be ill-advised for anyone to ever admit being at fault, even if they think they were, because that conclusion is possibly, and often is, wrong. Determining fault should be left to the insurance company and the attorneys, who will reconstruct the accident and come to a solid conclusion as to who was at fault.
- Forgetting to Exchange and Gather Information. It is also important that everyone on the scene exchange information with the other driver or drivers, including their name, address and insurance information, especially policy number. They should also get the other car’s license and registration number and the vehicle Identification number, or VIN. If possible, they should also try to take pictures, and get the names and phone numbers of as many witnesses as they can or, if the witnesses decide not to stick around, get their license plate numbers, so that someone down the road can track them down to get some information, if necessary.
How Long Can A Personal Injury Case Last?
The answer is that it depends on a number of factors. The best way to answer the question is probably to explain what happens before a claim may be resolved. I refer to these as “phases” in the claim process.
- Recovery Time. The first phase depends on the length of time for our client’s recovery from their injuries. The end of this phase is reached either when the client has recovered and is discharged from medical treatment, or when the client has reached the point where – in the opinion of their treating doctor – the client has reached their maximum recovery and whatever residual problems the client still has are essentially permanent. Doctors call this the point of “maximum medical improvement” or MMI. When a client is expected to make a complete recovery, we prefer to start negotiations after our client has been discharged from medical care and the client is satisfied they have recovered from their injuries. We do this for the protection of the client, because once there has been a settlement agreement, the case is considered concluded. If we and our client agree on a settlement with the insurance carrier and then later our client’s injuries cause further problems, it is too late to make a further recovery for those additional problems.
- Preparation of Demand Package. Usually, in a personal injury case, after our client has been discharged from medical care, the next phase is preparing the case for submission to the insurance company. Once the client notifies us they have been discharged, often it takes about 30 to 60 days for us to secure the final bills and records from the medical providers, and confirm in writing from the client’s employer any missed time from work. We will then prepare a package that consists of a lot of documents supporting and explaining the client’s financial damages and other losses. (This is often called the “demand package”). At this time our attorneys review the case and the demand package, and determine a “value” of the claim within a range.
- Negotiations. After submitting the demand, the next phase is negotiations. Frequently it takes 4 to 8 weeks for the insurance adjuster to review the submittal package, complete any investigation or medical review, and obtain authority to negotiate from their supervisor or claims manager. Normally we follow up with the insurance carrier about 30 days after the package has been sent, to find out how the review is progressing or if it had been completed. Once the insurance company makes their initial offer, then we make a counter offer and the process continues from there. The negotiation process can take one week or several months depending on the complexity of the case. Each offer is discussed with the client and their permission to reject any offer is communicated to the insurance company. Most of the time, an acceptable offer can be obtained from the insurance company. However, there will be times when an acceptable offer cannot be obtained by negotiations alone. Sometimes the insurance adjuster just does not see the value of the claim as we do, or sometimes the adjuster’s supervisor thinks we will settle for less than the value. For whatever reason, there will be cases where the insurance company will refuse to make an acceptable offer by negotiations alone. When that happens, we may have to go to the next phase, which is litigation. Another situation where we to begin litigation is when the recovery takes a long time and we are coming close to the statute of limitations.
- Litigation. It does not mean a case will definitely go to trial just because litigation is started by the filing of a lawsuit. Of the cases that our attorneys file, the majority are still settled before trial. So litigation is just another common step in the negotiation process. We don’t want to file suit if we can settle the claim without litigation, but if the insurance company won’t offer enough we won’t hesitate in filing suit.
As one can see there is no fixed answer as to how long a case can take to conclude. There are many variables but the most influential variables are the time it takes our client to complete their recovery from the injuries, and how long it takes the insurance company to make an acceptable settlement offer. Since any settlement is final, and you want the assurance that you know the full health effects of your injuries, you don’t want to rush a settlement before the case is ready to be properly submitted. At the Law Offices of David Luu, we will move your case along as fast as we can, consistent with getting the best result we can for you.
What is the First Step when Someone is Injured?
Being involved in a personal injury car accident can be scary, but it’s important to remember totry and keep calm at all times. Do NOT get into a heated argument about fault. Do NOT admit fault. The steps you take immediately following a personal injury accident will greatly affect the reimbursement that you get from your car insurance company if you file a claim, or compensation for your injuries from another driver’s insurance. You should see a doctor immediately, even if you think you’re fine. Although you may feel fine now or think your injuries aren’t very serious, symptoms such as pain, discomfort, dizziness, and numbness may soon appear in the days that follow. Getting medical attention quickly isn’t just the best thing for your health, it also gives greater credibility to your personal injury claim. If you wait several days or weeks after the accident to seek medical attention, it will be harder to prove that your injuries were caused by and are the result of a car accident. You should consider taking detailed notes on your injuries and medical treatment in order to help you get full reimbursement from the insurance company. Remember to jot down the names and addresses of any of the following that you visit:
- Physical therapists.
- Other professionals you were referred to after the accident.
Also keep the following records:
- Keep receipts for medications you were prescribed or any assistive devices such as crutches that were needed.
- A journal or daily diary about your injuries and medical care. Be specific about everything, and include such details as the degree of pain and any inconveniences you experience from your injuries.
- File every form of correspondence you had with medical professionals during the course of treatment for your injuries. This includes e-mails and notes that you record during and after telephone calls and doctor’s appointments.
- Save all of your medical bills and receipts. This includes prescriptions, special equipment (crutches, walkers, walking canes, casts, etc.), special foods, and co-payments.
- Keep track of travel expenses for medical appointments.
To strengthen your claim, record the following:
- Information about the accident. Snap pictures of the accident location, making sure to include stop signs and traffic lights, if applicable.
- Photos of your car’s damage. Don’t limit it to one or two shots. Take several pictures from every angle, making sure to snap close-ups and long distance shots.
- Photos of Your Injuries. Ask a friend to take pictures of your injuries. If you have trouble getting a settlement from the insurance company, photos will be valuable evidence for your case.
- Proof of financial losses, such as lost wages and opportunities.
- Names and contact information of witnesses.
You will want to hire an attorney to handle the matter for you. Attorneys experienced in personal injury will be able to deal with the issues in these claims. They can help you fully understand your rights. They will be able to get you the highest amount possible for your claim. In the event that you have a dispute over your claim, an attorney can be a valuable asset if you end up in mediation or in court.
For more information on Statute Of Limitations, a free initial consultation is your best next step. Get the information and legal answers you’re seeking by calling (714) 697-8600 today.