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What Is the Statute of Limitations for Suing After a Car Accident?

Deciding whether or not to sue for damages after a car accident can be an emotional ordeal. Some victims may be inclined to accept a quick settlement from an insurance company in hopes of putting the memory behind them and moving on with their lives. But settling without first getting experienced legal guidance means accident victims may get far less compensation than they should, in negotiations or in court.

If you are involved in a car accident that is either completely or partially caused by another driver, you may be able to file a claim against their insurance company, to hold the negligent driver accountable for the costs of your current and future medical care, lost income, vehicle repairs and other expenses stemming from the accident. But you are limited in how long you take to file a claim. Each state has its own statute of limitations, the time period in which  lawsuits can be filed following an accident.

The statute of limitations varies among the states in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern regions that we serve:

  • Virginia — Virginia car accident victims can seek compensation for vehicle repair costs within five years of the date of the accident. However, they only have two years to hold a responsible party accountable for injuries resulting from the accident. A victim’s loved ones can file a wrongful death lawsuit up to two years after the date of death.
  • West Virginia — In West Virginia, the statute of limitations for car accident claims and wrongful death actions is two years.
  • Washington, D.C. — Injury and property damage claims must be made within three years of the date a car accident occurred in Washington, D.C., and wrongful death claims must be made within two years of the victim’s death.
  • North Carolina — There is a three-year statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits stemming from auto accidents in North Carolina. A wrongful death claim must be filed within two years of the victim’s death.
  • South Carolina — South Carolina requires plaintiffs to seek civil remedy for their injuries or car damage within three years of the accident. There is also a three-year statute of limitations for wrongful death lawsuits.

If the statute of limitations expires before an accident victim decides to seek compensation, the victim will likely forfeit forever their chance to file a claim. In some exceptional cases, a judge may extend the statute of limitations for a civil case. However, no one should ever rely on having the statute of limitations waived to accommodate their circumstances. The sooner you can file a claim after an accident, the better your chances of compiling the evidence and witness statements you need to maximize your compensation.

Marcari, Russotto, Spencer & Balaban represents auto accident victims in settlement negotiations and litigation. If you need guidance from a qualified personal injury attorney, call us at (888) 351-1038 or contact us online to schedule a free initial consultation. Our attorneys meet with clients at our offices in the Carolinas and Virginia.

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