After you’ve been in a car accident in Washington, you might be most worried about fixing the damage to your vehicle or replacing it, getting needed medical treatment, and other concerns that immediately pop up after an accident. However, you should also keep in mind that you do not have an unlimited amount of time to file a car accident claim against the person who caused your accident.
In Washington, the statute of limitations–how long you have to file a legal action related to a particular incident–is three years from the date of the car accident. If you don’t make the three-year deadline, you may not be able to receive any compensation for your accident or your losses, pain, and suffering related to it.
File Your Claim as Soon as You Can
Filling a lawsuit is not a short and easy process. Before your personal injury attorney in Marysville can even start the paperwork, they may need to do all of the following:
• Investigate the accident to determine fault
• Identify all of the parties who could be liable
• Work with accident reconstruction professionals
• Get any official records that have detailed information about the accident, such as police reports
Because these beginning steps take some time to complete, it’s vital that you start your claim process as soon as you possibly can after you’ve been in the accident. You don’t want to wait until the last possible second to begin your case and miss out on your compensation because you delayed taking action for too long.
When You Don’t Discover Injuries Right Away
If, for example, it’s been five years since you had your car accident but you felt fine until you went for a run and felt a terrible pain in your back, you may want to make a claim now.
After getting medical care, the doctor discovered your injuries do actually trace back to a fracture in your spine that wasn’t caught or treated after you had the accident. Since it’s been more than three years since your car accident happened, can you still file a claim for your injury?
In some cases, the answer here is “Yes.” This falls under what is known as the Discovery Rule, which permits a person to file a legal action once the statute of limitations has passed if they are able to successfully show that they did not discover their injuries until now.
However, this is not very common, and it can be very complex in court. For example, the insurance company involved may claim the person knew about the injury the entire time and didn’t keep up with the proper medical treatments.
Of course, it’s always worth remembering that you should get a thorough medical exam after an accident, even if you don’t think you are hurt in any way. Some accident-related injuries, such as whiplash, can take days to appear.
Gather Eyewitnesses and Evidence
For your personal injury attorney in Marysville to build your case, they will need to back up your claims with statements from witnesses and evidence. As time passes, information can be lost in several ways, including:
• The destruction of the car belonging to the driver who was at fault
• Loss of evidence related to the accident cause—phone companies, for example, will only keep the phone records of a distracted driver for so long
• The loss of detail in the memories of eyewitnesses to the accident
In some very limited situations, you can “toll” the statute of limitations for a car accident claim. This means that the time period is halted until a specific event takes place. A minor car accident victim, for example, may be tolled until they turn 18. As with cases falling under the Discovery Rule, this is more complex and can make your case more difficult in court.
A car accident can cause you financial losses and pain and suffering for years afterward. It’s important to take action as soon after your car accident as possible so you stand the most solid chance of receiving fair compensation for what you lost, what you went through, and what you could be facing in the future.