When Is It Too Late to Get a Lawyer for a Car Accident?
The sooner you contact an experienced car accident lawyer, the greater will be the benefits you and your family receive following an automobile collision. The days after a car accident are often filled with worries about important pressing and practical matters. First among them is the health and well-being of the people involved in the crash. Little else may seem important if you or someone you love is seriously injured.
While other issues may dominate your initial attention, it’s never too early to hire an accident lawyer and it’s almost never too late to get a car accident lawyer.
Hiring a skilled personal injury attorney near you to fight for your right to recover what you lost due to another driver’s negligence immediately relieves you of the feeling of isolation or helplessness many people sense following an accident.
Dangers of Waiting to Get a Car Accident Lawyer
It’s almost never too late to get an accident lawyer, but there are times when it is too late.
- “Notice of Claim” for injuries due to municipal employee’s negligence
- Statute of Limitations
Municipal Claims Deadline
In most North Carolina cities and towns, anyone who wants to file a lawsuit against the municipality for damages caused by the negligence of a municipal employee must file a “Notice of Claim” with the city government within a relatively short time, sometimes within 30 days. Some municipalities allow as long as 6 months. Missing the deadline can lead to your lawsuit being dismissed. This deadline applies to injuries suffered in accidents involving city buses, police or fire vehicles, trucks or other equipment owned by the municipality or operated by a municipal employee.
Statute of Limitations
Depending on the nature of the injury you suffered, the law in North Carolina requires that you must file your lawsuit within a certain time limit. Failing to do so forfeits your ability to legally sue the responsible party to recover compensation. For a non-fatal auto accident injury or damages caused by someone else’s negligence, you have 3 years from the date of the injury to file suit. If the accident resulted in the wrongful death of a person, then their estate or representatives only have 2 years to file suit.
Benefits of Getting an Accident Lawyer Right Away
Car accidents cause physical and psychological injury, property damage, and financial losses in the form of lost wages, expenses for medical treatment and rehab, and lost opportunities. In the United States, we rely heavily on commercial insurance companies to pay for an accident victim’s losses. Insurance companies will not pay you all you deserve unless you have a professional advocate fighting for you.
who represent victims who suffered injuries in a car accident acquire valuable skills and a comprehensive understanding of precisely what legal actions need to be taken to ensure their client’s interests are best protected.
One of the most important benefits of getting a lawyer involved in your car accident claim as soon as possible is the attorney’s ability to take immediate action to investigate the accident, identify evidence that might be lost over time, and to obtain witness statements while the facts are still fresh in the witness’s minds.
The need for immediate investigation in a car accident case involving serious injuries cannot be overstated. Within minutes following any car crash, evidence begins to be destroyed.
For example, when car accidents occur in busy intersections or along a heavily traveled roadway, the vehicles get moved. Either the drivers themselves or police authorities remove the cars from the road to enable traffic to resume. Were photos taken of the original location of each vehicle after the accident? Did anyone measure the distance the debris traveled? Were there any skid marks left on the pavement from the drivers stepping on the brakes?
What about traffic signals? Was there an obstructed stop sign? Were the traffic lights operating properly? Was there a problem with the roadway?
Waiting for days, weeks, or months after a car accident means that the physical evidence that existed at the accident scene is either deteriorated or gone entirely.
As time passes, memories fade. Witness testimony can make or break a car accident victim’s claim for compensation. Identifying witnesses who saw the accident, or who were with one of the parties before or shortly after the accident is important.
Obtaining a reliable statement from these witness gets increasingly difficult as the weeks and months tick on. Rather than getting a statement while the facts are fresh in a witness’s memory, delaying a witness interview means they could have forgotten important details entirely, or worse, they might remember the events inaccurately.
Witnesses also relocate, go away to college, become ill, or even pass away. If a personal injury lawyer is retained early enough after a car accident, and they learn that an important witness is either very ill or very old, the lawyer can seek permission to record a deposition to preserve the valuable testimony.
Identifying Other Responsible Parties:
Studying and practicing law over many years provides experience that can’t be substituted. Professional attorneys commit their entire career to honing analytical skills they apply to the facts and the law in each case.
When a car accident involves another car, a truck, or a bus, there are often multiple parties who could be legally responsible to pay compensation to the victims. If the negligent driver’s insurance policy is insufficient to pay the full amount of damages suffered by the victim, and the driver has no wealth or property, attorneys examine the facts to look for other sources from whom to collect compensation for their client.
Protecting a Victim from Their Own Mistakes:
The sooner an experienced personal injury accident lawyer becomes involved in your case, the fewer opportunities the insurance adjuster will have to minimize the value of your claim.
The best lawyers don’t want their clients to speak to insurance companies without the lawyer present, if at all. But if no lawyer is engaged, the insurance company for the negligent party will continue to contact the accident victim to get them to say things determinantal to the claim.
“How are you today, Mr. Accident Victim?” “Fine, thanks. How are you, Mr. Adjuster?”
The insurance adjuster then notes in their records that, “the claimant stated they were fine.” This is a simplified example, but it illustrates how important it is for an attorney to be the victim’s representative.
Many accident victims who are modest, or personally courteous and accommodating will even apologize or admit some fault for the accident.
North Carolina is a “Contributory Negligence” jurisdiction:
In a contributory negligence jurisdiction, if the party primarily at fault for the accident can show that the accident victim’s own negligence “contributed” to the accident, the victim can be barred from recovering any compensation.
Government Disability Benefits While the Claim is Pending:
Unfortunately, some victims who are suffer severe injuries in car accidents because of another driver’s negligence must wait years for their claim to be resolved for a large sum of money. In the meantime, they can’t work, or support their family, or pay their own living expenses.
When you suffer a severe injury in a car accident that will leave you unable to work for a year or more, you may be eligible for one or more federal or state disability benefit payments while you wait to settle your personal injury case. If you have a substantial work history during which you paid taxes, you could qualify for monthly Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI or SSD) payments. If your income and financial resources low, you could be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and state programs.
At the Clauson Law Firm, we specialize in preparing disability claims for both SSD and SSI benefits. Our staff has extensive experience with all types of impairments, both physical and mental, and we are among the most active disability law firms in your area.
Don’t Hurt Your Own Car Accident Injury Claim:
Don’t wait to contact a lawyer to represent you if you were injured in an automobile accident. The best legal advice often includes guidance about what you should be doing and what you should not do while your claim is still unresolved.
Missing appointments with your doctors, therapists, or other healthcare professionals. A record of inconsistent treatment or multiple missed appointments can indicate that you are either not concerned about your condition or that you are fully recovered.
Talking to many people about the details of the accident, your injuries, and how you feel can create a string of witnesses with conflicting stories reported by you.
Speedier Property Damage Recovery:
In many auto accident cases, property damage claims can be resolved by your attorney even as the insurance company continues to resist admitting their insured’s liability for the physical and psychological injuries you suffered. Many people who delay contacting a lawyer after suffering damages in an accident ultimately regret waiting. Accident victims live with higher levels of stress, anxiety, and frustration when they are standing alone against insurance adjusters who intentionally drag their feet, question the veracity of the victim’s statements, or continue to offer them much less than their claim is worth. Getting an experienced, professional auto accident lawyer to represent them immediately relieves many of those feelings.