What is the Car Accident Statute of Limitations in Vermont?
First, for those who aren’t fluent in legalese, a “statute of limitations” is a state law that sets a time limit on a prospective plaintiff’s right to bring a lawsuit in the state’s civil court system. These deadlines vary depending on the kind of case you want to file, but they are almost always measured in years.
In Vermont, the specific time limit that applies to a vehicle accident case depends on whether the crash resulted in someone’s death, a personal injury, or vehicle damage.
For accidents that result in injuries and/or damage to a vehicle or other personal property -- that includes a claim made by a driver, passenger, motorcycle rider, bicyclist, or pedestrian -- potential plaintiffs must get any lawsuit filed within three years, according to Vermont Statutes Title 12, Section 512. For these cases, the three-year “clock” starts running on the date of the accident.
But if someone died as a result of the accident, and the family or representative of the deceased person wants to file a Vermont wrongful death claim against the person who caused the crash, the deadline for starting that case is two years from the date of the deceased person’s death (and remember that the date of the death might be different from the date of the accident). That statute of limitations is set by Vermont Statutes Title 14, Section 1492.
Whether it’s an injury lawsuit or a wrongful death claim, the case will almost certainly hinge on whether the allegedly-at-fault driver’s negligence was the cause. Learn more about Proving Fault for a Car Accident.
In Vermont, as in every state, if you try to file your lawsuit after the statute of limitations deadline has passed, the defendant is sure to ask the court to dismiss the case, and the court is very likely to agree that a dismissal is appropriate. That’s why it’s so important to understand how the deadline applies to your situation.
You may be confident that your case will be resolved through the insurance claim process, but from a strategy standpoint you always want to make sure you have plenty of time to file a car accident lawsuit if you need to. At a minimum, doing so will give you more leverage during settlement negotiations. If the filing deadline is coming up, it may be time to contact an experienced Vermont car accident attorney to make sure your legal options are preserved.
by: David Goguen, J.D.