How Long Do You Have to File a Lawsuit After a Car Accident?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 15, 2021

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Typically, you have one or two years from the date of the car accident to file your lawsuit. Your state’s statute of limitations restricts the length of time between the date of your injury and the date by which your claim must be filed. If you have decided to sue and the car accident was some time ago, contact an auto accident attorney as soon as possible.

Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations

There are some exceptions to the one or two year statute of limitation rule for minors and claims against public entities. If there was a minor involved in the accident who was also injured, a parent may pursue a claim on behalf of the child. Alternatively, the minor has until his or her 18th birthday, plus the statutory limit, to personally file suit. For example, in California, the statutory limit is two years for a personal injury lawsuit. A 14-year-old has about six years to file—that is, four years until the teen’s 18th birthday plus the two year statute of limitations.

When Public Entities Are Involved

Time periods are much stricter when you have a claim against a public entity, as when you’re injured on board a city bus. The city may give as little as three months from the accident to file a claim. Consult a car accident attorney right away to cut through the red tape. See Do You Need to Contact an Attorney After a Car Accident? for more.

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