The Texas legal system, like other jurisdictions, imposes time limitations on the enforcement of its citizens’ legal rights. These time limits are strictly enforced, although narrow exceptions do exist. It is absolutely critical that you keep the appropriate deadline in mind, because missing it could be fatal to your case. In Houston car accident cases, insurance companies facing claimants without legal counsel have been known to intentionally stall negotiations in hopes that the client will accidentally miss the deadline.
What is a Statute of Limitations?
Simply put, the statute of limitations is a law that says you must file a lawsuit over a certain claim by a certain date, otherwise you lose the case. Although this may seem harsh, imagine the difficulties that would arise if an eyewitness was asked to testify about a car accident that occurred 20 years ago.
Two clarifications are in order:
- All you need to do is file the lawsuit by the deadline, not win the case by the deadline. You can file a lawsuit on the day before the deadline and still beat the statute of limitations, even if the lawsuit drags on for another 10 years.
- Filing a lawsuit doesn’t just mean handing papers to the court clerk. A lawsuit filing must include a formal complaint in proper format, certain supporting documents and a filing fee. Your lawsuit isn’t considered properly filed until the court clerk confirms that your papers are in order. Even if this takes a few days, you will be assigned a filing date that corresponds the date that you handed the papers to the clerk.
The Statute of Limitations in Texas
Every state applies its own statute of limitations deadline. In Texas, the deadlines for claims likely to arise from car accidents are as follows:
Property damage: Two years from the date that the damage occurred (the date of the accident).
- Personal injury: Two years from the date of the accident.
- Wrongful death: Two years from the date that the victim died.
What Happens If I Miss the Statute of Limitations Deadline?
Normally, if you miss the statute of limitations deadline you will be barred from ever filing a lawsuit over the same accident. There is an exception that sometimes applies – the start date of the two-year period can be delayed if you could not have reasonably discovered the existence of the claim by the date of the accident. If, for example, you had a back injury that did not manifest itself until a year later, or you were in a coma for several months after the accident, the statute of limitations deadline might be extended.
Time is of the Essence — Call Mario Madrid Today.
Houston car accident attorney Mario Madrid has been practicing law for two decades as a lawyer, prosecutor and judge at various points in his career. He is also a member of the National College of DUI Defense Attorneys. Regardless of where you are from, if you have been the victim of a car accident in the Houston metro area, call Madrid Law at 713-877-9400 for a free initial consultation.