Car Accident Statute of Limitations In Every State, Plus Exceptions

auto accident statute of limitations

Car Accident Statute of Limitations In Every State, Plus Exceptions

Going through a car accident’s physical and mental trauma can be an extremely taxing and confusing experience. You may not know your rights and how to seek them. After taking care of your health, one of the most important things is understanding that you have a specific deadline to file a lawsuit or an insurance claim. Each state has its own statute of limitations, and particular circumstances can prolong or shorten the statutory period.

Below, we will look at the statute of limitations in each state, as well as the reasons why you may have a longer or shorter time to file a claim. 

Car Accident Statute of Limitations by State (including DC)

Unless otherwise stated, the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury claim is the same for property damage claims.

➔ Alabama — 2 years

➔ Alaska — 2 years

➔ Arizona — 2 years

➔ Arkansas — 3 years

➔ California — 2 years (3 years for property damage)

➔ Colorado — 3 years

➔ Connecticut — 2 years

➔ Delaware — 2 years

➔ DC — 3 years

➔ Florida — 4 years

➔ Georgia — 2 years (4 years for property damage)

➔ Hawaii — 2 years

➔ Idaho — 2 years (3 years for property damage)

➔ Illinois — 2 years (5 years for property damage)

➔ Indiana — 2 years

➔ Iowa — 2 years (5 years for property damage)

➔ Kansas — 2 years

➔ Kentucky — 1 year (2 years for property damage)

➔ Louisiana — 1 year

➔ Maine — 6 years

➔ Maryland — 3 years

➔ Massachusetts — 3 years

➔ Michigan — 3 years

➔ Minnesota — 2 years (6 years for property damage)

➔ Mississippi — 3 years

➔ Missouri — 5 years

➔ Montana — 3 years (2 years for property damage)

➔ Nebraska — 4 years

➔ Nevada — 2 years (3 years for property damage)

➔ New Hampshire — 3 years

➔ New Jersey — 6 years

➔ New Mexico — 3 years (4 years for property damage)

➔ New York — 3 years

➔ North Carolina — 3 years

➔ North Dakota — 6 years

➔ Ohio — 4 years

➔ Oklahoma — 2 years

➔ Oregon — 2 years (6 years for property damage)

➔ Pennsylvania — 2 years 

➔ Rhode Island — 3 years (10 years for property damage)

➔ South Carolina — 3 years

➔ South Dakota — 3 years (6 years for property damage)

➔ Tennessee — 1 year (3 years for property damage)

➔ Texas — 2 years 

➔ Utah — 4 years (3 years for property damage)

➔ Vermont — 3 years

➔ Virginia — 2 years (5 years for property damage)

➔ Washington — 3 years

➔ West Virginia — 2 years

➔ Wisconsin — 3 years (6 for property damage)

➔ Wyoming — 4 years

Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations

Although there are specific exceptions in some states created by contract or statute, common exceptions can extend the filing date beyond the designated statutory period.

1. If the defendant has left the state

If the defendant is not in the state, you can’t technically file a claim against them. It’s like filing against a ghost. That’s why courts give some leniency in waiting for the defendant to return to the state.

2. If the defendant is legally incompetent, legally unfit to stand trial or a minor

In these situations, the statute of limitations is prolonged until the defendant’s incompetence is removed or when they reach the age of 18.

3. If the defendant is dead or imprisoned

In the unlikely scenario in which the defendant is dead, you can still file a claim against their estate. In case the defendant is imprisoned, you can wait until they are released or make parole.

4. If the state/country is at war or you/the defendant are on active military duty.

If the state is embattled, the courts will postpone lawsuits. Similarly, if you or the defendant are on active military duty, the statute of limitations will be tolled until the interested party returns.

5. Tolling agreements

Both parties can sign a tolling agreement and waive the statute of limitations. Doing that will still preserve your right to file for the plaintiff and minimize court costs for the defendant.

6. Equitable tolling

When you couldn’t have reasonably discovered that a car accident led to an injury or an illness until the statute of limitations period had passed, you can see whether you’re eligible for equitable tolling.

What Can Shorten the Car Accident Statutes of Limitations?

Much like the standard exceptions that can prolong the statutory period, some exceptions can shorten it.

1. Car accidents involving a government official/employee

One of the main reasons that the statute of limitations can be significantly shortened depends on where and with whom the accident occurred. Some government employees have immunity from lawsuits, and certain states offer a six-month window in which you can file a claim, while others have different state-specific pre-filing requirements. If you don’t follow the requirements that apply to your case, it can be barred entirely.

2. Car accidents involving dram shop laws

Currently, 43 states have adopted some form of a dram shop law that allows a degree of liability against drinking establishments that allow visibly intoxicated people to get in their cars and drive away. Some states only give you 60 days to file a claim, so you need to be prompt in submitting your paperwork. It’s crucial to consult with an attorney in your state to understand your situation and options and act as soon as possible.

Watch the Clock

Regardless of the specific deadline that applies to your car accident case, if you fail to go to court and start your claim before the deadline ends, you’ll likely lose your legal right to file a claim and bring a lawsuit. If you’re wondering when the clock starts running, it’s typically the day when the accident occurred. Of course, as mentioned earlier, there are exceptions to this rule, such as when you didn’t discover an injury until later in life.

If you were the victim in a car accident or are just curious to understand your rights in a personal injury case, Legal Chiefs’ network of professionals is here to help!


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Auto Accident FAQ

Your first and foremost action following an accident is to stay calm, check if you or anyone else involved has been injured, and call the police. Get the name and contact information of all parties involved in the accident as well as any witnesses of the event. To document the damage, take pictures of the accident scene, the vehicles, and your injuries. It’s important not to admit liability until you hire an attorney because they will conduct a thorough investigation to establish the driver at fault.
Right after a car accident, you may feel fine, but injuries can surface days, weeks, and even months later. That’s why it’s good to see a doctor even if you don’t believe you were injured in the accident. Your doctor can recognize issues or injuries that won’t immediately become apparent to you and alert you to warning signs of injuries that may arise due to the accident. If you fail to treat your injuries within a certain period of time, you may forfeit your right to get reimbursement for future medical costs. The general rule is not to settle auto accident claims without having been examined by a medical professional.
In most cases, you won’t have to go to court. The majority of auto accident claims are resolved outside of court after negotiating the terms with the insurer. Most insurance companies generally try to settle claims as quickly as possible and for as little money as possible, so it’s wise to have an attorney negotiate on your behalf.
In addition to taking pictures of the accident scene and taking the contact information of the involved parties and witnesses, your detailed explanation of how the accident happened is also necessary to file a claim. Law enforcement reports of the accident will also serve as crucial evidence in your claim.
Many factors determine the driver at fault in an auto accident case. Do not accept any part of the blame until the investigation has concluded. Even if the investigation finds that you are partially at fault, you may still be entitled to receive compensation. There are cases when the victim also shares part of the blame for an accident. If, for example, you were driving five to ten mph over the speed limit when the accident happened, this would have limited your reaction time, and you could likely be considered a negligent driver even if you weren’t the one to cause the crash. Different states have different ways of settling auto accident claims where more than one driver is at fault. So it’s best to check the specific laws in your state (or the state where the accident took place) or discuss the matter with your auto accident injury lawyer.
It happens surprisingly often that people get into an auto accident where the driver at fault doesn’t have insurance. In these situations, it’s wise to have an auto insurance policy that comes with Uninsured Motorist (UM) coverage. That way, if you get into an accident and the at-fault driver doesn’t have insurance, you will still be able to file your claim under the UM coverage you have with your own insurance company. Your insurer will then process the claim following the same process as it would for an opposing insurer. The only difference is that the claim will be against your UM coverage and not against another driver. Likewise, if you were involved in a hit-and-run accident where the responsible driver fled the scene before you could take their information, you can again seek compensation from your UM coverage.
Suppose you suffered injuries after an auto accident that was caused by another driver’s negligence. In that case, there are two main types of damages that you may seek compensation for: compensatory (a.k.a. monetary) and punitive damages. Compensatory damages are the most common type of damages in a personal injury claim, and they often include: ● Current and future medical bills ● Property damage ● Emotional duress ● Lost wages ● Loss of enjoyment of life ● Loss of future earnings potential On the other hand, punitive damages are much rarer, but they can occur in situations where the vehicle manufacturer is to blame.