What is a Statute of Limitations? When Do I Need to Retain an Attorney?

Two common questions we receive from potential new clients are “when do I need to file a lawsuit?” and “when should I retain an attorney?”  In a typical personal injury case in Arizona, the statute of limitations is generally two years.  This means that, in most instances, you have two years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit against the at-fault party or parties.  If you do not file a lawsuit by this date, and you have not already settled your claim, then your claim is forever barred.  In other words, your claim is gone, and you can no longer recover from the at-fault party.

While the statute of limitations in Arizona for personal injury claims is generally two years, other claims have an even shorter statute of limitations period.  For instance, if you were injured in an accident caused by an Arizona government employee or entity, you have only 180 days from the date of the accident to file and serve a notice of claim with the government employee and entity.  After this, you must file a lawsuit against the government employee and entity within 1 year of the date of the accident.  Again, if you do not meet these deadlines, your claim will be forever barred.

There are also limitations periods for claims you make with your own insurance company for uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage.   For example, if you were injured in an accident by a driver who does not have liability insurance, and you have uninsured motorist coverage through your automobile insurance policy, then you can submit an uninsured motorist claim with your insurance company.  However, there are limitations periods within which you must notify your insurance company of your claim.  If you cannot settle the claim with your insurance company, there are limitations periods within which you must file a lawsuit or demand arbitration, depending on the language of your insurance policy. 

In summary, there are various limitations periods depending on the type of claim and the identity of the person or entity you are asserting the claim against.  This is one of the primary reasons it is important to consult with an attorney as soon as possible following an accident.  Your attorney will be able to identify your claims, identify who is responsible for your injuries, and then advise you of the applicable statute of limitations.  If you have been injured in an accident, and you have questions regarding your claim, we encourage you to give us a call at Wade & Nysather, P.C., and speak with an experienced attorney for a free consultation.