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How Long Do I Have to File a Lawsuit After a Truck Accident?

A trucking accident can be a devastating experience, resulting in thousands to hundreds of thousands of damages, lifetime medical costs and a lifetime of pain and suffering. While monetary compensation cannot undo the damage and mental anguish the accident caused, it can help you afford the best medical care possible and ensure that your recovery is a comfortable one. However, to receive compensation you must file a personal injury claim and you must do so within a specified period of time. The law refers to that specified time period as the “statute of limitations.” If you fail to file your claim within the statute of limitations, you may forfeit your rights to compensation.

Statute of Limitations on Personal Injury Claims in Indiana

Per Indiana Code § 34-11-2-4(1), the statute of limitations on most personal injury cases is two years. If the identified defendant in your trucking accident claim is a non-government employee, you have two years either from the date of the incident or the date you discover your damages to file a claim. However, if the trucker in question was an employee of the government, your timeframe can be as short as half a year.

Exemptions to the 2-Year Statute of Limitations

Indiana law does provide for a few exemptions to the two-year statute of limitations rule. The three main exemptions are as follows:

  • As a result of your accident, you sustained a physical or mental disability and were unable to file a personal injury claim. However, you recovered from your disability and your health care providers removed your legal disability status. You have two years from the date of the status removal to file a personal injury claim.
  • You or your injured child were minors on the date of the accident. You or your child have two years from the date you turn 18 to file a trucking accident claim.
  • If you lost a loved one due to accident-related injuries within the two-year period, you have an additional 18 months from the date of death to file a trucking accident claim.

Even if you believe an exemption applies, your best bet to retain your rights to compensation is to consult with an Indiana trucking accident attorney.

Claims Against the Government Must Be Made Within 180 to 270 Days

There will be some situations in which your time constraints to file a claim will be much shorter than the two years. For instance, if your accident involved a trucker from a local or state government entity, that is not a political subdivision, you must file a “notice of claim” within 270 days under Indiana Code 34-13-3-6(a). For a federal governmental entity, a “notice of claim” must be filed within two years under 29 CFR Section 100.401(b) of the Federal Tort Claims Act. Failure to file a notice of claim will likely result in your forfeiture of rights to compensation. However, if your accident involved a school district, county, city or separate municipal corporation, you must file the notice of claim within 180 days. Indiana state law considers “government entities” to be any one of the following:

  • Township
  • Town
  • County
  • City
  • Special taxing district
  • Separate municipal corporation
  • City or county hospital
  • State educational institution
  • Board or commission of any of the aforementioned entities
  • Community correctional service program
  • Drug enforcement task force

The Importance of Hiring a Trucking Accident Attorney Right Away

If your accident involved a government entity, filing a “notice of claim” is a non-negotiable part of the legal process. However, note that if you begin the legal process on your own, state law prohibits you from hiring a state attorney later on. For this reason, it is crucial that you retain an experienced trucking accident lawyer as soon after your accident as possible.

What Happens When the Time Limit Expires

If the statute of limitations expires before you have the chance to file a claim, and if exceptions do not apply to your case, you will in all likelihood lose your right to pursue compensation. What this means is that will not have the legal right to recoup compensation for any of the following:

  • Your Injuries: The most common type of damages sustained in trucking accident cases and the most common type of damages awarded are physical and mental injuries. From broken bones to ruptured organs to brain injuries, there are dozens of severe and costly injuries you may sustain in a truck accident. Indiana law allows victims to recover the cost of medical expenses via personal injury claims, but you may lose that right if you fail to file your claim within the statute of limitations.
  • Property Damages: There is a strong likelihood that your vehicle sustained significant damage in your trucking accident. Indiana law allows you to recover compensation or the full cost of repairs or replacement via a lawsuit. However, you forfeit this right if you fail to file your claim within the two-year time frame.
  • Wrongful Death: Losing a loved one to a truck accident can cause significant emotional and financial upheaval in your life. Though your statute of limitations on a wrongful death claim is longer than that of personal injury claims, you may still lose your rights to recover compensation for your losses if you fail to file your claim within the allotted time frame.

Following a trucking accident, it is best to proceed as if the strict two-year statute of limitations applies. If you miss your chance to file, you may also forfeit your rights to the compensation you need to recover fully and comfortably.

Steps To Take Following a Trucking Accident

If you were involved in a truck accident, there are four crucial steps you should take to preserve your rights to compensation and strengthen your case. Those are as follows.

Step 1: Stop Your Vehicle and Provide Assistance

Regardless of how severe the accident is, you have a legal obligation to stop your vehicle and check in on the other vehicle’s occupants, if you can do so. While stopped, you and the other driver should exchange the following information:

  • Name
  • Driver’s license number
  • Registration number
  • Address
  • Names of vehicle occupants

If you feel up to doing so, provide assistance to injured persons.

Gather Evidence

Again, if you can do so, gather as much evidence from the scene of the accident as possible. Examples of evidence that can serve to strengthen your case are as follows:

  • Contact information of any witnesses
  • Photographs of the scene of the accident and damages
  • Contact information of other people involved in the accident
  • Police reports
  • The names of local businesses that may have video surveillance footage of the accident

Schedule a Checkup

Regardless of how you feel following an accident, it is crucial to any future personal injury case that you schedule a medical checkup as soon after the incident as possible. Some injuries, especially those commonly sustained in vehicle accidents, tend not to show up for days, or even weeks, after the incident.

Contact an Attorney

In most truck accident cases, victims sustain severe to life-threatening injuries. In these cases, substantial monetary compensation is necessary to afford medical expenses, right wrongs and help injured parties achieve some semblance of normalcy. In these cases, it is in victims’ best interests to consult with a reputable truck accident lawyer in Indiana as soon after the accident as possible.

Hensley Legal Group has the skills, resources, and willpower to help wronged parties pursue the justice and compensation they need to recover in physical and financial comfort. If you or a loved one was involved in a truck accident in Indiana, contact our team today to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation.

Sources:

Indiana General Assembly:http://184.175.130.101/legislative/laws/2019/ic/titles/034/articles/024/chapters/004

Enjuris:https://www.enjuris.com/indiana/truck-accident/