When planning to file a personal injury claim following an accident, sooner is usually better than later. One reason for this is the statute of limitations that places a deadline on how long you have to legally seek compensation.
Even if you are still recovering from your injury, it’s important to hire an attorney as early as you can. A personal injury lawyer can get the ball rolling on your case, speed up the entire process, and win you a fairer settlement.
You Have a Two-Year Window in Texas
The Texas personal injury statute of limitations is two years following the date of an accident. After two years, a judge will summarily dismiss any civil action by the injured person.
All crimes have a statute of limitations determining a certain period for legal action. The purpose of the Texas statute of limitations for personal injury claims is to ensure that victims only file a lawsuit while evidence, such as full medical records, is still available and reliable enough for a court trial.
Two Years Is Too Long for Witnesses
Time limits also ensure that witness memories are still fresh. Whether a car accident, product liability case, or medical malpractice, witnesses often play a key role in proving a claim.
Any witness testifying must be fully mentally competent, with reliable memories of the event. And under Texas law, the statute of limitations considers memory to be insufficiently reliable after two years have passed.
Legal Disability Gives You More Time
There are some conditions under which the deadline can be relaxed. If you’re proven to be of unsound mind following a car crash, perhaps due to the injury, for example, then you can often gain an extension on the statute of limitations.
Legal disability also applies when a victim is under the age of eighteen. In this case, the statute of limitations begins on the day the claimant legally becomes an adult: they’ll have two years to file a civil lawsuit from their eighteenth birthday.
Personal Injury Claim vs Lawsuit
It’s important to clarify the difference between a personal injury claim and a personal injury lawsuit. A personal injury claim is the initial legal demand you make for compensation. In almost all cases, this claim is made to the insurance company. About 95% of successful personal injury cases are resolved with a settlement offer outside of court.
But if the insurer isn’t agreeing to pay you a fair settlement, you might have to file a lawsuit. This means that you, the plaintiff, are officially suing the defendant, taking the case to court to be decided by a judge and jury. The two-year filing deadline of the statute of limitations applies to both the claim and the lawsuit.
Why Insurance Companies Drag Cases Out
Once your initial claim is filed, the insurer will often employ delaying tactics. This is an intentional act, hoping to extend the case beyond the two-year Texas statute of limitations so that a lawsuit will no longer be an option for you.
When this happens, your negotiating strength is greatly reduced, especially in more complex cases such as medical malpractice, wrongful death, or car accidents with multiple parties and severe injuries. Without the threat of a lawsuit, you’ll have to accept a lower settlement.
It’s in the best interests of the insurer to delay the resolution of your claim for more reasons than the statute of limitations alone. They know you’re facing high medical expenses and the costs of repairs if you were in a car accident, or perhaps some other property damage.
You’ll be facing financial difficulties, especially if you’re out of work because of your injuries. By delaying, the insurer hopes to frustrate and demoralize you or make you so desperate you accept a less-than-fair settlement. Without an experienced personal injury attorney by your side, this strategy is often effective.
Complex Claims Take Longer To Resolve
With relatively straightforward cases such as a car accident with minor injuries and no doubt as to the defendant’s negligence, the claim is unlikely to last longer than a few months. But when your injuries are severe, damages are large, or liability is unclear and disputed, things can take far longer. A complex medical malpractice or wrongful death claim is usually more at risk of passing the two-year deadline and failing to win fair compensation.
Accelerate Your Claim With an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer
Whether you’ve experienced a car accident, a slip-and-fall accident, or any other kind of accident, it’s unwise to seek compensation without a good lawyer by your side. An experienced personal injury attorney is your best way to combat the insurer’s delaying tactics, speed up your claim, and resolve things well within the two-year statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits. Your lawyer can deal with the insurer directly for you, handle all communications, and apply pressure to keep the case moving along nicely.
Know and Prove the Value of Your Claim
A lawyer who’s well-versed in federal law and Texas civil practice can determine the true value of your claim. In addition to bills for medical treatment and property damage, there are many more damages you likely have a right to under the full extent of the law.
Your lawyer will also gather evidence, negotiate skillfully, and file a lawsuit if needs be. All within the statute of limitations.
Hire an Attorney With Experience in Court
It’s also wise to hire an attorney with experience trying similar cases to yours in the Texas courts: even in federal courts. This will let the insurer and at-fault party know you’re prepared to file a lawsuit, if necessary, within the statute of limitations.
Typical Legal Fees for Personal Injury Claims
One reason the injured party sometimes puts off hiring an attorney is concern about legal fees. But with most claims, personal injury lawyers work on a “no fee if no recovery” basis. For this reason, concern about legal fees is no reason to delay your claim and risk passing the filing deadline of the statute of limitations.
You can ask potential lawyers about their fees. It’s a rare exception when an attorney doesn’t offer a free consultation. Try to find attorneys with local law offices and expertise in Texas law.
Don’t Take Advice From the Insurer
Another unfortunate reason some claimants delay hiring an attorney is that the insurance adjuster persuades them not to. Without fully understanding the situation, some accident victims ask the insurer if they need to hire a lawyer or not.
This is a little like asking the lion if you should flee or stay for lunch. The insurer will almost always say “no,” when the correct answer is almost always “yes.”
Win a Larger Settlement Sooner
On average, personal injury victims who hire a lawyer win three and a half times more money in their settlements than those who don’t. This is why insurers don’t want victims to find good legal representation. Pay them no heed and find a lawyer as soon as you can.
Contact Houston Injury Lawyers, PLLC today at 936-251-5246 for a free consultation and free case review. We can file your personal injury claim in Texas, gather evidence, negotiate for you, and win you the compensation you deserve.