Explaining AL’s Car Accident Statutes of Limitations

Posted in Car Accidents on March 15, 2017.

Statutes of limitations are laws that forbid a person from filing a criminal or civil claim after a certain number of years have passed after the incident. The United States legal system put statutes of limitations in place primarily to protect defendants. The law has statutes of limitations to encourage plaintiffs and victims of crimes to bring claims in a timely manner, and to avoid claims involving evidence that has deteriorated over time.

Every state has its own statutes of limitations for different types of claims. After the period of time specified in a statute of limitations has passed, the courts may refuse to hear it. Even if the courts agree to hear the case, the defense can move to throw the claim out since it was filed after the limitations period. The courts hold that a long-dormant claim has more cruelty to the defendant than justice for the plaintiff. In order to make sure you bring a claim within a statute of limitations in Alabama, speak to an attorney as soon as possible after a personal injury accident.

Statutes of Limitations for Car Accidents in Alabama

In general, you have two years from the date of the injury to file a claim. If a loved one wrongfully died in a car accident, you also have two years to file a wrongful death claim against the defendant. In some cases, injuries after a car accident may not appear right away. This is especially true in minor accidents, such as slow moving rear-end collisions. In an accident that isn’t catastrophic, victims may not notice they have suffered injuries until days or even weeks later. This can happen for many reasons, such as an adrenalin rush after the crash or a form of injury that does not show symptoms until later. This is common in injuries such as:

  • Soft tissue damage. Damage to your muscles, tendons, and ligaments are not always noticeable right away. For instance, you may have suffered a whiplash injury during a car accident. The injury showed no symptoms and did not show up on an X-ray. Later on, pain and discomfort set in, and the injury manifests itself. Delayed symptoms are common in many soft tissue injuries.
  • Concussions. Concussions are dangerous and affect the brain. Often symptoms of a concussion do not show up right away, or are too subtle to notice. You may experience clouded thinking and inability to concentrate from a concussion, for example, but attribute it to lack of sleep or stress instead of your recent accident. Always seek medical attention immediately after an accident, even if you don’t feel injured.

If you don’t notice your injuries right away, the two-year statute of limitations begins counting down from the date you discover the injury. For example, say you were in a car accident in March 2017 but did not notice you suffered a soft tissue injury until May the same year. In this case, you would have until May 2019, not March 2019, to file your claim.

RELATED: Use the Checklist After a Car Accident 

Exceptions to the Two-Year Rule

Statutes of limitations are not always simple rules about when a person can file a claim. In some car accident cases in Alabama, the courts will extend the deadline due to extenuating circumstances. One example is that the two-year timeframe does not begin for minors until they turn 19, regardless of how many years this takes. If the injured party is “incompetent,” or cannot make his or her own decisions, the courts may also extend the statute of limitations. If you’ve been in a car accident in Alabama, speak to a Birmingham car accident attorney about your specific statute of limitations.