It may seem like attorneys are always rushing clients to file auto accident lawsuits as soon as possible, but there are several good reasons for that. One of them is because states impose a statute of limitations that restricts how much time plaintiffs have to file lawsuits after the incident occurs (e.g., 3 years in Maryland). Although you will typically be barred from suing the defendant if you miss the deadline, here are three ways you can get around this problem and still pursue compensation for damages.
Show You Were Incapacitated
Many states will toll the statute of limitations—i.e., pause the clock and restart it at a later date—for a number of reasons, and one of those is when the plaintiff in the case is too incapacitated to adequately manage the lawsuit. In this situation, the court will base the start of the statute of limitations on the date the plaintiff regained his or her ability to comprehend the legal ramifications of the case.
For instance, if the accident caused the plaintiff to go into a coma, the statute of limitations would be paused and only resume when the person woke up.
Proving you were incapacitated will require you to submit medical records from healthcare professionals detailing your condition and how it affected your ability to sue. If your incapacitation was mental in nature (e.g., you were legally incompetent), you will need to submit an evaluation from a mental health specialist that discusses how the disorder incapacitated you.
Prove the Defendant Left the State
Another reason the state will toll the statute of limitations is if the defendant leaves the state where the accident occurred before a lawsuit could be filed against the individual. For instance, imagine the defendant hit you while you were crossing the street. The next month, he or she relocates to another state without notifying you or the insurance company before you could file a lawsuit for damages against the individual. The court will stop the clock for the statute of limitations until you can find the person and serve him or her summons for the case.
This also applies if the defendant tries to conceal him or herself to avoid being sued, like if the defendant assumes another name and moves to a different city in the same state to avoid being served the lawsuit. The court will not count the period of time the individual disappeared as part of the statute of limitations.
Be aware that some states has a minimum length of time the person must have gone missing before it will begin tolling the statute of limitations. In New York, for instance, the person must have been absent from the state for a minimum of four months before the tolling will kick in. it's important to consult your local laws for similar restrictions and/or requirements.
Demonstrate the Defendant Tried to Hide the Accident
A third way you can get around the statute of limitations is by showing the defendant tried to hide the accident or his or her role in causing it. If the defendant hit you, fled the scene of the accident, and had the car fixed to make it appear as though the person was never in a collision, the court will not count the time it took to track down the individual as part of the statute of limitations. The clock would start when you found the person, even if that occurs several years later.
There may be other ways you can get around the statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit. Contact an accident attorney for assistance with this issue and your case, or check out websites like http://brittattorney.com/ to learn more.