How Long Do You Have to Sue After a Car Accident in Washington?

Damaged in heavy car accident vehicles after collision on city street crash site - how long after a car accident can you sue concept

A car accident can be a serious matter with a long-lasting impact on your life and livelihood. You might not only have to miss work as you recover from your injuries, but you might also incur substantial medical bills. In many cases, you can file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier — but this doesn’t always cover the full extent of a victim’s losses.

In the event you are thinking about filing a personal injury lawsuit to recover your economic and non-economic damages, you might be wondering, “how long after a car accident can you sue?” It’s important to understand that Washington state has a strict statute of limitations in personal injury cases, including car accidents. However, the amount of time you have to sue can depend upon the specific facts and circumstances of your case.

How Long After a Car Accident Can You Sue?

There is a three-year statute of limitations that applies in Washington personal injury actions. This means you have three years from the date of the accident to commence a lawsuit. Notably, the clock starts ticking on the date the crash occurred — not the date you realized you were hurt. This deadline applies to property damage claims in connection with the accident, in addition to those involving physical and emotional injuries.

If the car accident resulted in a fatality, the statute of limitations for a wrongful death case begins running on the date of death, which may or may not be the same date as the accident. In such cases, there is also a three-year deadline to sue.

Can the Statute of Limitations Be Extended?

There are some situations in which the statute of limitations in a car accident lawsuit can be tolled. Specifically, the deadline to file a lawsuit can be extended under the following circumstances:

  • The victim was under 18 — The amount of time you have to sue for a car crash can be extended if the plaintiff was under 18 at the time the accident occurred. In these cases, the statute of limitations would not begin to run until the victim’s 18th birthday, giving them until they are 21 to bring a legal action.
  • The victim is mentally incompetent — The statute of limitations can be tolled in cases where the injured person has been declared mentally incompetent and does not understand the nature of the legal action.
  • The defendant is on active duty in the military — If the defendant is on active duty in the military, a personal injury action cannot be brought against them during that time. The time during which you cannot sue does not count toward the statute of limitations.
  • The commencement of an action is stayed — If an injunction had been issued by a court prohibiting anyone from filing a lawsuit against a person during a certain time frame, that length of time would not count toward the three-year statute of limitations.

Failure to commence your case within the applicable time frame can result in your being forever barred from bringing your claim. In other words, if you do not file a lawsuit for your injuries before the statute of limitations expires, you would not be able to recover compensation for your damages.

Statutes of Limitation in Cases Against the Government

If the negligence of a state, city, or county agency or employee was to blame for the car accident, you might have a claim against the government. This is common in car crash cases involving hazardous road conditions. In such instances, there are specific rules and procedures that must be followed which differ from those that apply when a lawsuit is filed against an individual or corporation.

Before you can commence legal action against Washington state or a city government, you must serve a verified claim on the entity. You must then wait 60 days before you can file a lawsuit in court to allow the Office of Risk Management an opportunity to conduct an investigation into the accident. The statute of limitations is placed on hold during this 60-day time frame.

Contact an Experienced Washington Personal Injury Attorney

In the event you’ve been injured in a car accident, it’s essential to be aware that you only have a limited amount of time to sue. It’s best to have an experienced attorney by your side who can ensure you comply with the statute of limitations so that you can obtain the monetary recovery you deserve. With locations in Burien and Bellevue, Herron Law Office, PLLC provides skillful representation to car accident victims throughout the state of Washington. We welcome you to contact us for a consultation by calling (425) 600-2580.