Can I file a personal injury lawsuit at any time?
No. The time to which to file the personal injury lawsuit is controlled by the statute of limitations. At Budge Law Firm, we will help you determine what the statute of limitations is for your case. It is important to talk to an attorney early to ensure that you do not miss deadlines. If your personal injury case is filed after the statute of limitations has expired, the lawsuit will likely be dismissed, and you will have no way to recover. Please contact us to discuss your case.
Do I have a personal injury case?
Not all injuries result in a personal injury case. For those that do, every personal injury case is different. Whether or not you have a personal injury case depends upon the facts of your situation.
What are the timeframes that I need to know about if I want to pursue my personal injury claim?
Per Arizona law, a personal injury or wrongful death case must be filed within two (2) years of the date that the injury or death occurred (A.R.S. §12-542). There are however some exceptions to this rule such as when your claim is against a public employee/entity or involves a minor who was injured. When your claim is against a public entity or employee you must file a notice of claim against that entity within 180 days from the date of the injury or death. This claim must contain the necessary elements and be served upon the person(s) authorized to accept service of process for that entity before the 180-day limit (A.R.S. §12-821.01). After the notice of claim is served you have until one year after the date of the injury or death to file a complaint within the proper court or your case will be barred (A.R.S. §12-821). When injuries to a person result in their death then the date at which the cause of action begins is the date of death.
When the person injured is a minor under the age of eighteen (18) then the statute of limitations does not accrue until the age of majority, meaning that you have until the minor child turns the age of 18 before the statute of limitations begins to run. You must file a complaint with the proper court before the age of 20 or your claim will be barred (A.R.S. §12-502).
What is the difference between a claim and a complaint?
A complaint initiates a civil lawsuit in a court of law and sets forth a request for relief for damages caused by the defendant. A claim is a request for compensation outside of a court of law with either the defendant directly or the insurance company representing them. A claim does not protect your rights nor does it satisfy the statute of limitations within which your complaint must be filed in a court of law. Often times the terms complaint and claim are confused and not used correctly. If you are seeking to recover damages from a defendant or their insurance company a claim is usually established first and it may be settled without ever going to the courthouse. If, however, the insurance company refuses to compensate you for your damages you will likely have to file a complaint with the proper court in order to preserve your rights and seek compensation for which they will be required to pay if you win your case. Insurance companies are under no legal obligation to compensate you for your loss until there is a legal judgment ordering them to do so.
The insurance company has offered to settle my case, why should I hire an attorney?
Insurance companies are in business to make money, period. How do they make money? By paying as little as possible for every claim that comes to them. Often, insurance companies may offer to pay your outstanding medical bills and pay for damage to your car and if your lucky sometimes a little extra for your bank account depending on the severity of your injury. They want you to believe that you are getting a good deal and that they are the hero because they offered this to you within days after the accident. Don’t be fooled! The purpose behind this early settlement is so that you won’t consider hiring an attorney who will help you get the full value of your claim. If you have been severely injured it is nearly impossible to know the full extent of your injuries within one week after the accident. Aside from physical injuries, there are several types of damages from which you can recover including lost wages, medical bills, property damage, decreased earning capacity, pain and suffering, etc… Most insurance companies do not factor in all of these damages when making an initial offer. A knowledgeable attorney can help you know what your case is worth and can help you obtain a successful result.