How Long Do I Have to File an Injury Claim in Virginia?
Have you or someone you love been injured due to the negligence of another party? Depending on what happened, you may be able to pursue damages against the person or party responsible through a personal injury claim.
While putting your life back together after an accident should be a priority, it’s vital that you don’t delay legal action. According to Virginia law, you must meet strict deadlines to preserve your legal rights.
What is Virginia’s Statute of Limitations?
The state of Virginia imposes a time limit on personal injury cases, referred to as the statute of limitations. By law, you have just two years from the date of the accident to file a civil action against the responsible party in most cases.
The logic behind having a statute of limitations is that it would be difficult for justice to be served after too much time has passed. For example, vital evidence and witnesses could disappear, which could prove your case or allow the other party to defend themselves.
This two-year time limit applies to most personal injury cases such as car accidents, product and premises liability cases, and wrongful death cases. But, there are some exceptions and additional rules. Some of the other time limits that apply according to Virginia Law include:
- Property damage – 5 years
- Trespass – 5 years
- Contracts (written) – 5 years
- Contracts (oral) – 3 years
- Libel/Slander – 1 year
Further, there are mandatory deadlines that apply to any case against a municipality in Virginia. So, if the responsible party was a city, town, or county in Virginia, you’d have to file written notice of a claim within six months of the injury. If you plan to sue the state, you have one year to file your notice of claim and just 18 months to file suit.
What Starts the Clock Running for the Time Limit?
According to Virginia Code § 8.01-243, the clock begins to run for the statute of limitations from the date of the accident or injury. You aren’t required to settle your case or take it to trial within two years. The law only requires that you file a civil action in court before the deadline expires.
But what if you didn’t know about the injury right away? One common scenario when this may come up is in cases when someone develops an illness because of repeated exposure to a toxic substance. When this type of situation happens, the clock would start running as soon as you know (or should have reasonably known) about the illness.
It is important to note that, by law, even the slightest minor symptom puts a person on notice that they have suffered an injury or illness. For this reason, you should always seek medical treatment right away at the first sign that you may have suffered harm (because of someone else’s negligence or reckless actions), then speak with an experienced attorney about your legal rights and options.
What If You Miss the Filing Deadline?
If you miss the deadline but file suit anyway, you may be out of luck. It will be up to the defendant to notice your error (which is likely) and file a motion to dismiss with the court. Unless you meet some exception to the rule, the court is going to dismiss your case. This means that you forfeit any right to pursue a claim against the responsible party for damages.
Are There Any Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations?
In Virginia, there are a variety of scenarios in which the statute of limitations might be extended, or the clock could be “paused” after it has started to run. Some examples of these include:
- If the injured party is either a minor or is “incapacitated” at the time of the accident, the statute of limitations won’t start to run until that person either turns 18 or regains proper mental capacity.
- If the allegedly responsible party attempts to obstruct the filing of a personal injury claim by changing their identity, leaving the state, or filing for bankruptcy, the time of the “obstruction” may not count towards the statute of limitations.
Speak with an Experienced Virginia Personal Injury Attorney
Personal injury cases can be complicated and emotional for accident victims and their families. You’ve been through enough in the wake of an accident and may wish to take time to recover. But you don’t have an unlimited amount of time to pursue the responsible party, see justice served, and collect the compensation you rightly deserve.
If you don’t begin your personal injury claims process early enough, your options may be limited. For this reason alone, we recommend that you work with an experienced personal injury attorney who will advocate for your best interests.
As soon as you are able, contact Buck, Toscano & Tereskerz for assistance. Our qualified Charlottesville personal injury attorneys will begin work on your case immediately. Call us today at 434-977-7977 or reach out to us online to schedule a free consultation.