If you suffer injuries in a car accident in Houston due to the recklessness or negligence of another driver, the golden rule is to claim compensation as soon as possible.
While you are unlikely to get paid immediately, starting the process promptly is important.
A maximum time limit of two years after accident injuries applies in Texas, so you must make your claim before then. This presents no problems in most cases but exceptional cases may require more time—and the law doesn’t automatically allow for these.
The general statute of limitation rule in Texas
Generally, the two-year rule applies. This is ample time for most accident victims to file a claim for their injuries.
You should note the following before making a claim:
- The start date is usually the date of the car accident that caused your injuries.
- The end date is the second anniversary of the accident (if it is a holiday or weekend, it is extended to the next business day).
- The claim must be filed “no later than two years”, meaning that it can be filed on the same day as the second anniversary.
What exceptions are there?
A major exception to the statute of limitations rule in Texas is when the injuries result in the death of the victim. For wrongful death claims, family members can make a claim any time up to two years from the date of death.
Sometimes, the full extent of injuries only becomes apparent long after the car accident. For instance, an initial medical diagnosis may say that the victim will make a full recovery but complications are suffered by the victim. If it later becomes apparent that the injuries are more permanent, more time may be granted by the court to claim if required.
Ultimately, if there is a valid reason for a delayed lawsuit, you may be granted an exception to the statute of limitations but, to avoid disappointment, instruct your lawyer to begin the claims process as soon as possible after your accident.
Can the statute of limitations be paused?
The two-year rule has some flexibility in personal injury cases in Texas and can be paused in four specific circumstances:
- The injured person is under 18: in such cases, the two-year period may start after the minor turns 18.
- The injured person is mentally disabled: if the individual is mentally disabled before the injury occurs, no statute of limitations applies to the injury and a claim may be filed at any time providing he or she remains mentally disabled. If the individual’s mental disability resulted from the accident, the two-year rule generally applies.
- Death of the at-fault party: if the at-fault party dies before a lawsuit is filed, the statute of limitations is suspended until an executor of the person’s estate is appointed or for one year from the date of the death (whichever is first).
- The at-fault party leaves Texas: the statute of limitations can be paused if the person who caused the accident leaves Texas temporarily.
Because of these complications and exceptions to the general statute of limitations rules in Texas, it is advisable after an accident to discuss your situation as soon as possible with a car accident claims attorney.
Why do you need to act quickly after a car accident?
Besides the two-year statute of limitations, there are other sound reasons for acting promptly after a car accident:
- Delays may harm your case: to claim the maximum compensation possible, avoid any delays in claiming for your accident injuries.
- Spoiling of evidence: act while the details of the accident remain fresh in your mind and evidence can still be gathered. Witness testimony is easier to get when the accident is recent, which may benefit you whether you settle out of court or go to trial.
- Time for negotiation: most personal injury settlements are negotiated between the at-fault party’s insurance company and the victim’s legal representatives and acting fast provides ample time for this without a lawsuit having to be filed.
- Quicker payment of compensation: the earlier you speak to your car accident lawyer, the quicker you are likely to receive compensation. This is important if you are under financial pressure due to a loss of earnings and pressure to pay bills.
Even with your best of intentions to act promptly, delays can occur through no fault of your own. Many cases were held up in recent times due to Covid restrictions, for instance.
As a general rule, speak to your car accident lawyer about filing a claim as quickly as possible after treating your accident injuries.
A lot of work is likely to be involved for your attorney if a lawsuit is required. Supporting a claim with the necessary evidence takes considerable time and the two-year limit can quickly be eaten away.
Typical challenges of dealing with insurance companies in Texas
All car owners in Texas must purchase car insurance. So, almost all accident injuries involve negotiating compensation with the insurance company of the at-fault driver.
Insurance companies work to minimize their losses—which means that their interests are in direct competition to yours.
Consequently, you are likely to face some of the following tactics from loss adjusters after your accident:
- Early settlement: you may be offered an early settlement in exchange for waiving the right to seek further compensation at a later date (even if your injuries turn out to be more serious than you thought).
- A time limit on an offer: this is designed to pressure you into accepting it.
- Contested liability: in some cases, the insurance company will try to pin some or all of the fault on you.
- Denial of a claim without justification: this is done in the hope that you will give up your claim.
- Request for a recorded statement: insurance companies try to find proof of inconsistencies in your story that could help deny or limit your compensation.
Once you have appointed an attorney, he or she will conduct all communications with the insurance company so you won’t have to concern yourself with the above.
What influences the time it takes to settle a car accident injury claim?
Most car accident claims in Texas are settled out of court after a negotiation process. Few go to trial.
However, cases that appear simple at first can become far more complex and take longer than expected. Ultimately, the time it takes to settle your claim will depend on the following factors:
- The extent of your injuries: more serious injuries often take longer to settle because time must be allowed for the full impact of the injuries to be clear (this usually requires expert opinion from medical professionals).
- The number of at-fault parties: if there is more than one at-fault party in your car accident, it can take longer to agree on liability and to settle.
- Assessment of non-economic damages: non-economic damages such as pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life are more challenging to measure than economic damages and are more like to be contested. This can slow the settlement process down.
- The appeals process: an appeal against an insurance company’s decision will slow the payment process down.
If you have suffered injuries on the road in the Houston area, contact an experienced accident injury claims attorney at DeHoyos Law Firm, PLLC for a free case evaluation or call (832) 745-4878.