In New York, the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury case is typically three years. Generally speaking, that means that a person injured through someone else’s negligence has three years from the date of his or her injury to file a personal injury lawsuit. However, there are exceptions and special requirements that can derail a case if an injured person doesn’t act promptly.
One deviation from the standard three year statute of limitations relates to filing a lawsuit against New York City or another municipal entity or agency. There are two potential pitfalls for those injured on city property or through the negligence of a governmental entity. First, the injured party is often required to file a notice of claim, and the window for filing the notice may be very short—90 days is common. Failing to file notice within the required time frame could mean that your claim is forever cut off. The other issue is that depending on the nature of the claim or the responsible party, the statute of limitations itself may be shorter.
That’s just one example of a procedural rule that might require an injured party to act much more quickly than the personal injury statute of limitations suggests. But, deadlines and regulations aren’t the only reason it’s best for a personal injury victim to act quickly to secure his or her rights.
Notice requirements and statutes of limitations aren’t the only reasons to act quickly in pursuing a negligence claim. There are a number of benefits for the personal injury victim who seeks counsel long before the statute of limitations becomes an issue.
Immediately after an accident, the responsible party’s insurance company may reach out seeking information, or even offering a settlement. While the insurance company representatives will likely seem friendly and helpful, their job is to do whatever they can to minimize the payout. That may mean engaging the injured person in conversation designed to elicit statements that, when taken out of context, could hurt the case. Or, it may mean pressure to sign a settlement agreement early, before the extent of injuries, the cost of future medical care, and the potential for lost income and other ongoing losses is clear.
Working with an experienced NYC personal injury attorney from the outset minimizes those risks and takes the pressure off of the injured person and his or her family, since the law firm will act as a buffer between the victim and the other party, the insurance company, and other.
It’s also important to consider the impact the passage of time has on evidence. A year or two after the accident, most injured parties will be comfortably within the statute of limitations. However, it may be difficult to find witnesses when so much time has passed. When you do locate witnesses long after the accident, their memories may be fuzzy.
At the same time, physical evidence may have been lost or destroyed. For example, in a car accident case, the other vehicle will almost certainly be repaired or scrapped within the first few months following the crash. That means any evidence in the form of structural damage to the vehicle that would help establish how the accident occurred, faulty equipment that might help prove negligent maintenance or product liability, and other valuable evidence could be lost forever.
When you’re determining your next steps, consider more than the personal injury statute of limitations. Make sure you educate yourself about or act quickly enough to protect yourself against notice requirements you may not be aware of, shortened statutes of limitations, and other procedural requirements.
You’ll also want to take into account the difference timing can make to an attorney assembling evidence and putting together a case on your behalf. The sooner you act, the better opportunity your lawyer will have to preserve evidence, lock down witness statements while memories are clear, and protect you from missteps. You can get started right now by calling 212-732-2929 or filling out the contact form on this page.