So you've been involved in an auto collision and sustained injuries but you don't have the time to schedule a doctor's appointment and handle the situation. Or maybe you have the time but you're overwhelmed because there seems to be a mountain of paperwork to read and your medical bills are getting uncomfortably high. Perhaps you've been meaning to consult an attorney but between your career and real life, you can't seem to make time. These are common situations for our clients who have been involved in auto collisions. However, it is important to understand that by delaying, you could be legally unable to file a claim and receive damages, even if you were the victim.
"Statutes of limitations" are laws that set time limits on how long you have to file a civil or criminal lawsuit. These time limits depend on the legal claim or crime involved in the case and vary from state to state. For example, in some states, you may have three years to file a personal injury lawsuit after you were hurt in a car accident, but in other states, you may have two years. As a general rule, the time period begins to run on the date your claim arises or "accrues," like the day of the car accident.
The statute of limitations that applies to most tort cases in Virginia is Va. Code § 8.01-243(A), which provides that "unless otherwise provided in this section or by other statute, every action for personal injuries, whatever the theory of recovery, and every action for damages resulting from fraud, shall be brought within two years after the cause of action accrues." Deciding when a cause of action accrues is often a matter of complex legal interpretation. It is a good idea to consult a lawyer to help you figure out when your cause of action accrued. Remember, once the statute of limitations has expired or "run," you can no longer file a lawsuit.