Understanding the Statute of Limitations in Personal Injury Cases

By Peter DePaolis

The statute of limitations is the deadline for filing a lawsuit. If the case has not settled and the lawsuit does not get filed before the deadline, the statute of limitations will bar the plaintiff from taking legal action against the party who caused the harm to them. The injured person will have no recourse for collecting compensation for their losses.

Understanding the statute of limitations in personal injury cases is vital because it could take away your right to hold the negligent party accountable for your injuries. When you work with a Virginia personal injury attorney on your case, they take care of the deadlines so that you do not have to worry about them.

The Personal Injury Statute of Limitations in Virginia

Usually, a person has two years to file a lawsuit seeking monetary damages for their injuries and other losses against the party who caused the accident through negligence. 

Please note that two years expires the day before the second anniversary of the accident, not on the actual second anniversary. For example, a lawsuit must get filed before May 1, two years after a car crash. Filing it on May 1, two years later, will be too late. You do not have to wait until the deadline approaches to file the lawsuit. Many personal injury lawsuits get filed within weeks or even days of an accident. 

You will want to talk to a personal injury lawyer well before the statute of limitations to give them time to investigate the accident and draft all the required paperwork for filing the lawsuit. Evidence like skid marks and possible witnesses can be difficult or impossible to locate if you wait too long.

Filing a Lawsuit Does Not Prevent a Settlement

Sometimes, people hesitate to file a lawsuit because they would prefer to settle their case, not litigate. You can still negotiate with the defendant’s insurance company after filing a personal injury lawsuit. In fact, over 90% of personal injury lawsuits settle without having to go to trial.

Filing a lawsuit protects you from losing the right to seek compensation from the negligent party because of the statute of limitations. You do not have to wait until you have exhausted all possibilities of reaching an amicable settlement before filing your lawsuit.

Sadly, some people get tricked into missing the statute of limitations because they expect the case to settle. The claims adjuster might make you think that you are close to settling when they are really delaying the claim process in hopes that you will not know about the statute of limitations. Once the filing deadline expires, the insurance company will break off negotiations because they no longer owe you any money for your losses.

How the Statute of Limitations Works for Personal Injury Cases Involving Minor Children

Virginia law does not expect minor children to know their legal rights or responsibilities. The statute of limitations for someone who gets injured through someone else’s negligence while still a minor gets a little more time to bring a lawsuit for personal injuries. The two-year deadline starts on the child’s 18th birthday. The lawsuit must get filed before the person’s 20th birthday. Filing on the 20th birthday is too late. A Virginia personal injury attorney could help you avoid devastating outcomes like getting your case dismissed because of the statute of limitations. You can reach out to us today for a free consultation. There is no obligation.

About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.