Serious injuries can be difficult for anyone to handle. Between dealing with the insurance company, medical appointments, physical therapy, and dealing with everyday life, it is easy to get overwhelmed. Unfortunately, dealing with the legal repercussions of an accident cannot be put off indefinitely. There are time limits on filing personal injury claims, and if you don't act in time, you may not be able to recover damages for your injuries.
A personal injury attorney will be able to file your claims, meet deadlines, keep you up to date on the process, and handle most of the legal legwork so that you can focus on healing.
Statute of Limitations on a D.C. Personal Injury Claim
There is a certain period of time, known as the statute of limitations, following an injury during which a potential plaintiff may be able to file a lawsuit. This is because it may be difficult for an individual to defend themselves against claims that happened far in the past; they may not recall, or no longer have access to evidence. The law believes that if someone rests on his or her rights, that person loses those rights. Civil claims must be brought within a certain statutory window, typically a few years, in order to recover compensation. If a claim is brought after the allotted time frame, then the claim will be barred.
Under the District of Columbia Code § 12–301, except as otherwise specifically provided by law, actions for the recovery of damages for an injury to real or personal property purpose may not be brought after the expiration of a 3-year period from the time the right to maintain the action accrues.
Generally, the point in time which the "clock" begins to "run" is the date of the injury or accident. However, in some cases, the right to bring a claim does not begin to accrue until a later date. For example, if a plaintiff is under the age of 18, the action accrues when they reach the age of 18. In the case of a plaintiff who is unconscious in the hospital, their date of accrual may not begin until they are conscious again.
While a 3-year statute of limitations may seem like a long time, time can pass quickly, and the next thing you know, it has been three years since the accident. There may be some exceptions to the rule, but in most cases, a plaintiff will be barred from pursuing a civil personal injury lawsuit after the three-year mark.
Reopening a Personal Injury Claim After Signing a Release or Settlement
Many people who have not contacted a personal injury attorney will either take an early settlement offer or sign a release that relieves the responsible party of further liability. Later on, the injured person may realize that the settlement is not enough to compensate them for their injuries, and want to re-open their claim. Unfortunately, in most cases, unless there was fraud or deception, the settlement is legally binding.
Injuries can be complex. In the days, weeks, or even months after an accident, you may not be aware of the full extent of your injury. Signing a release or settlement soon after an accident could cause you to underestimate the compensation you deserve. This is why it is highly recommended to talk to an attorney before signing any legally-binding document. A release from the insurance company may limit your compensation, limit your legal recourse after accepting the settlement, and leave you having to pay for medical expenses related to the accident out of your own pocket.
File Your Personal Injury Claim Before the Statute of Limitations Has Run
Rather than wait until you see how the insurance company handles your claim, you may want to be proactive and speak with a personal injury attorney. The insurance company may take months, or even years to come up with an offer on your claim. By this time, the statute of limitations may have expired, and your options for compensation will be limited.
If you are concerned that the insurance company is taking advantage of you, or if you have been injured or in an accident, please do not hesitate to contact the law firm of Gilman & Bedigian to discuss your case. We help our clients through all the phases of the litigation process, including dealing with the insurance company. Our attorneys have years of experience handling personal injury and medical malpractice cases. Contact our office today for a free consultation.