Like most other states, Louisiana has a deadline for filing lawsuits against at-fault drivers and other liable parties after motor vehicle accidents. Known as the “statute of limitations,” this deadline is typically just one year from the date of the accident. This means that, if more than a year has passed since the crash, you have most likely lost your right to sue the at-fault party for damages.
Every car accident case is unique. We encourage you to reach out to our New Orleans car accident attorneys at The Womac Law Firm if you were injured due to the negligent or reckless conduct of another motorist, even if a significant amount of time has passed since your accident. Our attorneys can review your claim and determine if you may have a case. We are here to advise you of your legal rights and options and can answer any questions you may have.
Contact us online or call our office at (504) 470-3935 today to request a complimentary consultation and case evaluation with a member of our legal team.
When Does the One-Year Statute of Limitations Apply?
In Louisiana, the statute of limitations for motor vehicle accidents is the same as the one for personal injury claims. As such, the one-year deadline for filing a lawsuit applies in nearly all motor vehicle accident cases resulting in bodily injury.
This includes (but is not limited to) accidents involving:
- Passenger cars
- Pickup trucks
- Big rigs
- Tanker trucks
- Delivery vans
- Commercial vehicles
The one-year statute of limitations also applies in cases involving property damage and wrongful death. So, if you wish to sue an at-fault driver for compensation related to repairing or replacing your vehicle or other personal property, or for the wrongful death of a loved one, you only have one year from the date of the accident to do so.
Most insurance policies require claimants to provide notice of intent to file a claim (or actually file a claim) within a “reasonable amount of time.” What constitutes a “reasonable” timeframe will differ depending on the provider and the exact language of the auto insurance policy, but generally speaking, if you are filing a claim with your own insurance company or the other driver’s auto insurance provider, you should do so promptly. Typically, this means within a few days or weeks.
Are There Any Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations for Car Accidents?
There are some exceptions to Louisiana’s one-year personal injury statute of limitations, but these exceptions rarely apply in car accident claims.
That being said, some exceptions include:
- The Injured Minors Rule: When a person is injured as a minor, meaning they are under the age of 18, in Louisiana, the statute of limitations is deferred. This means that the “clock” does not start running until the individual turns 18. In other words, if someone is injured as a minor, they have one year from their 18th birthday to file a personal injury lawsuit, regardless of their age at the time of the injury or how many years have passed since the accident occurred (in most standard cases).
- The Discovery Rule: In personal injury cases arising from defective products, the statute of limitations may be deferred based on the discovery rule. Under this rule, an injured individual may have one year from the date on which the defect that caused the injury was discovered or reasonably could have/should have been discovered (aka, became “discoverable”). This may or may not extend the deadline for filing a lawsuit.
- The Shared Liability Rule: In cases involving multiple at-fault parties, such as car accidents involving three or more vehicles in which at least two of the other drivers share some of the blame, the one-year statute of limitations may be extended. However, the plaintiff must bring a lawsuit against one liable party within a year of the accident. Once that condition is satisfied, the plaintiff may have more time to bring a second lawsuit if it is determined that another party shares liability.
Although these exceptions do exist, it is unwise to count on one of these situations applying to your case. In the vast majority of cases, you must bring a lawsuit against the at-fault driver (or another liable party) within one year of the crash.
What Happens If You Try to Sue After the Statute of Limitations Expires?
If more than a year has passed since the accident that caused your injuries, and you try to sue the at-fault driver or another liable party, you can almost certainly expect your case to be dismissed. The defendant (the party against whom you are filing the lawsuit) will likely point out this fact to the court and ask that the case be dismissed. If a rare exception does not apply, the court will almost always dismiss the case.
Although a year can seem like a long time, it can fly by. Before you know it, you could be risking your right to seek fair compensation for your accident-related damages. In fact, the sooner you seek the help of an experienced personal injury attorney, the better. Over time, evidence can be lost and witnesses can move away, making it much more difficult to build your case.
We encourage you to reach out to our New Orleans car accident lawyers as soon as possible after an accident to learn how we can help you get back on your feet. At The Womac Law Firm, we provide completely free consultations with no obligation for you. Should you choose to work with our firm, we will not collect any upfront or out-of-pocket fees from you. Instead, our attorneys only get paid if they successfully recover a settlement or verdict for you.
Contact us today to learn more or to schedule your complimentary case evaluation.