What is the Statute of Limitations and Why Does it Matter?

Lady Justice in front of a clock

If you were injured in Texas from an automobile accident or from a slip and fall, it is important that you are aware of the personal injury statute of limitations. The statute of limitations is the deadline for when you can file a lawsuit for a certain case. That time limit for personal injury cases against third parties in Texas is two years. This means that you have two years from the date of your injury to file a lawsuit.

Why is this important?

Once the deadline passes, insurance companies have no incentive to settle your case.

Once you’re injured in an accident, you will typically treat your injuries, recover, collect your medical bills and send them to an insurance company. From there, you will go back and forth negotiating for a fair settlement. The insurance company will most often offer you a high enough number that you’ll accept, but lower than you would likely see from a jury trial.

If the insurance company doesn’t offer a number high enough, the recourse is to file a lawsuit against the individual who hurt you. Of course, once you file the lawsuit, the insurance company will step in and represent the third party.

Knowing this, it makes sense that if that deadline passes and you’re unable to file a lawsuit, the insurance company no longer has an incentive to settle your case.

Before the Statute of Limitations Passes

There is a lot that you need to do before the statute deadline passes. If you settle your case too early, you could be missing key information revealing how injured you are. On the other hand, if you wait too long, you’re up against a ticking clock and rushing to get things done before the two-year mark.

In many personal injury cases, it’s important to know the full extent of your damages. This means that you need to have a good idea about how extensive your injuries are.

Example. You are currently going to a chiropractor and think you know the injuries you sustained. You are thinking you can go ahead and negotiate your case. However, your doctor says you need an MRI, and you find a disc bulge. This changes the entire value of your damages, as well as your pain and suffering.

Our Texas personal injury attorneys always recommend you wait until you know the full extent of your injuries and damages before negotiating with the insurance company.

Get What You Deserve Out of Your Settlement

It’s not uncommon for injured parties to be unaware of what they’re entitled to. When you’re injured because of someone else’s negligence, their insurance company is supposed to “make you whole,” or put you in the position that you were in right before the accident. The damages that you’re entitled to recover include, but are not limited to:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages and loss of earning capacity
  • Pain and suffering
  • Physical impairment
  • Future medical costs

It’s important to note that while you’re entitled to medical expenses, many insurance companies will argue that what you were billed was “too high,” or that you were “over-treated.” This is a common tactic to avoid paying you a fair settlement.

If the insurance company’s offer doesn’t include all of the above items, you are likely not getting a fair settlement.

Filing a Lawsuit

In the unfortunate situation where the insurance company doesn’t offer you a fair amount in respect to your injuries, your recourse is to file a lawsuit. The petition must be filed by the two-year statute of limitations date. In order to create the petition, you will need the defendant’s legal name and address, as well as the general events of what happened.

Not many attorneys will take a case close to the statute of limitations deadline, simply because of how much needs to be done before that day passes. If you’re waiting to hire an attorney, make sure you give them enough time to create the petition and become familiar with your case.

When to Hire an Attorney

When you hire the right personal injury attorney, they will do most of the work spelled out here for you. They will make sure that you have completed treatment before they gather the bills and records. They will negotiate with the insurance company and will let you know their opinion on whether or not the offer is fair, given the circumstances.

Most importantly, if you hire a personal injury attorney, they will ensure that the statute of limitations is met. If need be, they will file a lawsuit on your behalf and begin the litigation process.

You can hire a personal injury attorney at any point in the process, so long as the statute of limitations hasn’t passed. Most injury attorneys offer free consultations. If you have questions about whether or not your case would benefit from an attorney, reach out to one today!