What is the Car Accident Statute of Limitations in Louisiana?

Question

What is the Car Accident Statute of Limitations in Louisiana?

Answer

First, for readers who need to brush up on their legalese, a “statute of limitations” is just a state law that limits the amount of time a prospective plaintiff can let pass before he or she gets their lawsuit started in the state’s court system. The filing deadlines usually differ depending on the type of case you want to bring.

The statute of limitations for most Louisiana car accident cases will be the same as the larger one that applies to all tort (or ”personal injury”) cases filed in the state’s courts. Specifically, Louisiana Civil Code Article 3492 says: “Delictual actions are subject to a liberative prescription of one year. This prescription commences to run from the day injury or damage is sustained.”

How’s that for legalese? A “delictual” action is simply a lawsuit over some kind of harm. So, what Article 3492 says is that any lawsuit for injury or property damage must be filed within one year -- that includes any claim for injury or vehicle damage by a driver, passenger, pedestrian, motorcyclist, or bicyclist after a traffic accident. Louisiana’s one-year statute of limitations “clock” starts running on the date of the crash.

If someone died as a result of the crash, and the family or representative of the deceased person wants to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the at-fault driver, that case must also be brought to court within one year (according to Louisiana Civil Code Article 2315.2), but the “clock” starts on the date of the accident victim’s death, which could be different from the date of the accident itself. (Learn more about Louisiana Wrongful Death Lawsuits.)

If you try to file your lawsuit after Louisiana’s one-year deadline has passed, the defendant will make a motion to dismiss the case, and the court is almost certain to grant it. That’s why it’s crucial to understand and abide by the time limit as it applies to your situation.

From a strategy standpoint, even if you are confident your case will reach a satisfactory settlement, it’s a good idea to leave yourself plenty of time to file a lawsuit. Keeping your options open will at the very least give you more leverage during settlement negotiations. The state’s one-year filing limit is one of the shortest in the country, and if the deadline is fast approaching, it may be time to contact an experienced Louisiana car accident attorney.

by: David Goguen, J.D.

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