After a car accident in Arizona, if you’re thinking about making a claim for injuries or vehicle damage, it’s important to understand the relevant “statute of limitations” and how it applies to any lawsuit you may end up filing. The amount of time you have to file a civil lawsuit is governed by these laws, and every state has them on the books. There are different deadlines depending on the kind of case you want to file, and the state where you live.
The biggest reason to have the Arizona statute of limitations deadline in mind -- and to make sure you follow it -- is that if the statutory time limit has passed but you try to file your car accident lawsuit anyway, the person you’re trying to sue (i.e. the other driver) will almost certainly point out the missed deadline and make a motion to dismiss the case, which the court will almost certainly grant. If that happens, your case is basically over before it can really get started, and you'll be left without a legal remedy for any car accident damages (medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering) stemming from the crash, regardless of what your car accident claim might be worth.
(Note: There are a few situations that could pause or “toll” the running of the statute of limitations “clock” in Arizona. If you've got questions about whether one of these exceptions applies to your case, an Arizona car accident attorney will have the right answers.)
That's why the statute of limitations matters. Now, what is the law in Arizona?
Arizona Revised Statutes section 12-542 sets a a two-year deadline for the filing of any civil case seeking a remedy for "injuries done to the person of another,” for "trespass for injury done to the estate or the property of another," and for "injuries done to the person of another when death ensues from such injuries.”
So that two-year deadline covers pretty much every kind of vehicle accident, and every kind of loss. Whether you were a driver, a passenger, a motorcyclist, a bicyclist, a pedestrian, or someone whose close family member was killed in a car accident, if you want to file a lawsuit against the person who caused the crash, you need to do it within two years, and the “clock” starts running on the date of the accident.
Even if you don’t think you’re going to file a lawsuit over your car accident, it’s still important to have the Arizona statute of limitations deadline in mind. You always want to have the threat of filing a lawsuit as a bargaining chip throughout the car insurance claim process, especially if things get contentious. If the insurance adjuster knows you can always call off settlement talks and take the case to court, that’s a big incentive for them to cut you a check and put the matter behind them, instead of putting it in the hands of an unpredictable jury.
Bottom line: Make sure you leave yourself plenty of time under the applicable Arizona statute of limitations. Protect your rights, and keep all of your options open for getting compensation after a car accident. If the deadline is approaching, it may be time to turn your case over to an experienced Arizona car accident attorney.
Learn more about Car Accident Laws in Arizona.