After an accident in which another driver was at fault, people often wonder, “How long after an accident can you sue?” Like other states, Missouri has a statute of limitations that governs personal injury claims. This is a deadline for when a claim for a personal injury must be filed in court. The exact deadline varies depending on several circumstances. However, it is generally best practice to hire an attorney immediately so that your attorney can begin the important work of investigating the case and advising you on the proper procedures to follow. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you understand the statute of limitations that applies in your case and work to help you maximize the amount that you may be entitled to recover.
How Long After an Accident Can You Sue?
So how long after an accident can you sue? Technically, the law allows you to file a lawsuit immediately after you have been injured in an accident. However, this might not be the best course of action. Personal injury damages tend to grow because of the continuing costs of medical care and other losses that you might experience. It is difficult to tell immediately after being injured what the true scope of your damages will be. It is best to investigate your claim thoroughly and have it valued properly so that you have a better understanding of what it is worth before you file a lawsuit.
Statute of Limitations for a Personal Injury Suit Against a Private Party
How long after an accident can you sue in Missouri? The answer to that question depends on the type of wrongful act done to you and the type of damages suffered. A few examples are:
- Personal injury action, generally – 5 years
- Wrongful death action – 3 years
- Medical malpratice action – 2 years
- False imprisonment – 2 years
- Contract action – 10 years
There are a number of other statutes of limitation. The limitation period begins on the date that the wrongful or negligent conduct (that resulted in the damages) occurred. If you do not file a lawsuit within the limitations period, you will not be able to file a claim to recover damages. The statute of limitations serves as a bar to claims that are not filed in a timely manner.
Special Exception for Minors and Mental Incapacity
The time period for filing a claim when the damages are to a minor child does not begin to run until that child reaches the age of 21 years. So if a minor child is injured in a motor vehicle collision, the lawsuit deadline will not expire until five years after the person reaches the age of 21. The same exception is true of individuals with a mental incapacity. The time limit does not begin to run until after such a disability is removed. These exceptions are different, however, in medical malpractice actions.
When Should You Contact an Attorney?
If you have suffered an injury in an accident that you believe was the fault of another person or company, it is a good idea to talk to an attorney soon after you have sought medical treatment. If the lawyer agrees to accept your case, he or she can handle the investigation of the case and negotiations with the insurance company on your behalf. An attorney can also work to identify all potential sources of recovery, and he or she might be able to find more potentially liable parties who should also be named as parties to your lawsuit.
It is generally not a good idea to wait until the statute of limitations draws to a close to file a claim. As time passes, important evidence can be lost. If there were witnesses to your accident, it may be difficult to track them down if too much time has passed. Getting help from an attorney early will also allow your attorney more time to thoroughly investigate your case and gather important evidence that clearly shows the liability of the other driver. This may help your attorney reach a favorable resolution to your claim without having to file a formal lawsuit in court.
Schedule a Consultation to Learn More
Understanding the limitations periods for filing personal injury claims can help you preserve your rights. If you get help soon after your accident, you might increase your chances of recovering damages. Contact the Law Offices of Bryan Musgrave for a free and confidential case review by filling out our contact form or calling us at 417-322-2222.