Washington Statute of Limitations for Auto Accident Claims

What are Statutes of Limitations?

The statute of limitations places a time limit on a plaintiff’s ability to pursue a legal remedy with regard to wrongful conduct. Once this statutory period expires, unless there is a legal exception, the injured person relinquishes the right to seek compensation via a lawsuit or through other legal avenues.

Different kinds of Time Limits for Charges

In the state of Washington there is no one over-arching statute of limitations. The limitation periods vary by the type of civil action. A competent attorney will be aware of these fine points and ensure that your action is pursued within the appropriate timeframe.

Statute of Limitations in Car Accident Cases

In Washington, the statute of limitations to file a car accident or personal injury claim is three years. However, there could be an exception in auto product liability cases where defective components (tires, seatbelts, and airbags, for instance) or any other manufacturing or design defect is a factor.

In such cases, the statute of limitations is three years from the date of injury or within three years of the date the injury was or reasonably should have been discovered. For example, in the recent Toyota sudden acceleration cases, most victims who suffered personal injuries as a result of car accidents caused by defective Toyotas only recently found out that their injuries were caused by faulty gas pedals. So they would get additional time to file an auto products liability claim against the auto maker.

The Discovery Rule

In some car accident cases, it is not that simple for the victim to discover the cause of injury or even to know that an injury has occurred. When such a situation arises, the “discovery rule” in Washington State permits a lawsuit to be filed within a certain period of time after the injury is discovered. This rule does not apply to all civil injuries. It is best to consult an experienced auto accident lawyer to help make this determination.

Tolling of the Statute of Limitations

Sometimes, it may be possible to stall the statute of limitations by “tolling” Typically, this happens when the injury victim is a minor. Under Washington law, a minor’s statute of limitations automatically starts up again after his or her 18th birthday. (Tolling may also apply when the victim is determined to be mentally incompetent or is in bankruptcy.)

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