What is the Car Accident Statute of Limitations in Arizona?

Question

What is the car accident statute of limitations in Arizona?

Answer

First, let’s cut through some of the legalese. A “statute of limitations” is simply a law that sets a strict limit on the amount of time a prospective plaintiff has to file a lawsuit after suffering some type of harm or loss. There are different deadlines for different kinds of cases.

In Arizona, the statute of limitations that affects car accident lawsuits is the same as the larger one that applies to all personal injury cases.

Specifically, Arizona Revised Statutes section 12-542 sets a two-year deadline for the filing of any civil case seeking a remedy for "injuries done to the person of another,” for "trespass for injury done to the estate or the property of another," and for "injuries done to the person of another when death ensues from such injuries.”

So, after a car accident, the same two-year time limit would apply regardless of whether the legal remedy being sought is for injury, vehicle damage, or wrongful death.

When does the “clock” start running for purposes of the statute of limitations? If anyone was injured or had their property damaged in the crash -- whether a driver, passenger, motorcycle rider, bicyclist, or pedestrian -- they must get their lawsuit filed within two years of the date of the accident. But if someone dies as a result of the accident and their family brings an Arizona wrongful death lawsuit, the “clock” starts on the date of the person’s death, if it is different from the date of the accident.

If you try to file your lawsuit after the two-year time window has closed, the court will almost certainly refuse to consider it, so it’s important to understand how the statute of limitations applies to your situation.

Even if you’re confident that your case will be resolved through the car insurance claim process, you’ll want to leave yourself plenty of time to file a lawsuit in case you need to -- if for no other reason than that you’ll have more leverage during settlement talks. If you think you might be running up against the two-year deadline, it may be time to contact an experienced Arizona car accident attorney.

by: David Goguen, J.D.

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