What You Need to Know if You Have Been Injured in an Accident, Part III: Understanding Statutes of Limitations

March 14, 2011 in Articles, Personal Injury Articles | MARTIN WREN, P.C. | LEAVE A COMMENT

Virginia Personal Injury Lawyers

Having explained when to hire a personal injury lawyer and how to pay for that attorney on a contingency basis, I’ll next provide general insight into statutes of limitations in Virginia for personal injury actions.

A person who is injured because of the negligence or intentional act of another person or business must settle the claim or file suit before the applicable statute of limitations expires or else lose the right to seek compensation for the injuries they suffered.  Exactly when the statute expires can be a complicated legal and factual question that depends on the injured person’s cause of action and the date that cause of action “accrues” or occurs.

A cause of action is the legal theory that the injured person pursues to get compensation for her injuries.  In a typical auto accident case, the cause of action is negligence.  This basically means that the other person did something that he had a duty not to do (such as he was driving faster than the speed limit), or he didn’t do something that he had a duty to do (such as he didn’t stop at the red light) and you were injured as a result.  If the cause of action is negligence, the applicable statute of limitations is two years but there may also be notice periods that are much shorter time periods.  Because calculating these various periods can be difficult legal questions, you should always consult an attorney if you believe you have the basis for a lawsuit.

The date a cause of action accrues is usually, but not always, the date of the event that causes the injury.  This is usually true whether or not the injured person knows that he is injured.  For example, if you were involved in an automobile accident and knew that you had broken your leg, but didn’t know for three months that you had also torn your rotator cuff, your cause of action accrues on the same day for both injuries – the date of the car collision.

Also, sometimes there are special rules for people with special circumstances.  For example,

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