What is the Car Accident Statute of Limitations in Virginia?

Question

What is the Car Accident Statute of Limitations in Virginia?

Answer

Before we get to the specifics under Virginia law, we should explain that a “statute of limitations” is simply a state statute that sets a time limit on your right to bring a lawsuit. These deadlines are almost always expressed in terms of years, and the time limits vary depending on what type of loss or harm you have suffered.

In Virginia, there are at least three different statutes of limitations that could come into play after a vehicle accident.

First, if anyone was injured in the accident -- whether a driver, passenger, motorcycle rider, bicyclist, or pedestrian -- and they want to file a lawsuit against the person who caused the accident, Code of Virginia section 8.01-243 says that the injury case must be filed in Virginia’s civil court system within two years of the date of the accident.

Second, if anyone had their vehicle or other property damaged as a result of a car accident in Virginia, they must get their lawsuit filed against any potential defendant within five years, according to section 8.01-243.

And finally, if the car accident caused someone’s death, and their family or a representative wants to bring a Virginia wrongful death lawsuit, the filing deadline is two years, and the “clock” starts running on the day of the accident victim’s death, which could be later than the date of the accident itself. (The two-year statute of limitations for wrongful death lawsuits is set by Code of Virginia section 8.01-244.)

A follow-up question might be, “What happens if you try to file your Virginia car accident lawsuit after the statute of limitations deadline has passed?” In that situation, you can count on the person you’re trying to sue (that’s the defendant) asking the court to dismiss the case, and the court granting the dismissal. That’s why it’s crucial to understand the statute of limitations and how it applies to your situation.

Finally, from a strategic standpoint, even if you are fairly certain that your case will be resolved through a car insurance settlement, it’s always a good idea to leave yourself plenty of time to file a lawsuit. Keeping all your options on the table will give you more leverage during settlement talks, at the very least. So if the statute of limitations filing deadline is coming up, it may be time to talk with an experienced Virginia car accident attorney to make sure your rights are protected.

by: David Goguen, J.D.

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