In the weeks following an accident, it may feel like time is of the essence. While that's often true on the medical front, a personal injury attorney would likely tell you to slow down a bit on the legal side of things. You might wonder how soon you should pursue a claim, and here is what a personal injury lawyer probably would tell you.
Statute of Limitations
Especially if you're only a couple of weeks or months into dealing with a case, you're probably not up against the clock on your case. While there are some scenarios involving government agencies as defendants where you may only have a few months, nearly all cases involving private individuals or enterprises are likely to have between two to three years for filing. That's based on the statute of limitations in the state where the incident happened, and a personal injury lawyer can quickly tell you how it applies to your situation.
Notably, the case doesn't have to be settled by the statutory date. You must merely send the defendant official written notice of your intent to seek compensation.
Treatment and Physical Recovery Come First
The statute of limitations usually isn't the primary reason an attorney wants to go slowly with a case. More important is that you need to know the extent of your injuries. Likewise, you'll also want to know how far the physical recovery process is likely to go.
Even the best medical professionals often need time to answer these questions. For example, swelling around the spine may prevent a doctor from getting a clear picture of how extensive the damage is. Once the swelling comes down, the doctor may still need to perform exploratory surgeries, scans, and tests to determine what's going on. Then they may have to schedule procedures to try to correct the problem.
Similarly, a lawyer may want to consult with medical experts. A professional's opinion carries a lot of weight, and an expert witness may provide research and testimony to flesh out a case.
Until these items are off the checklist, a personal injury attorney will want to hold off on filing a claim. Clients need to be aware that if they settle early and more problems come up, they can't file a new claim or sue again unless they can prove fraud. Consequently, a lawyer will want to see a client physically recover as much as possible, even if that means getting closer to the statutory filing deadline.