What Happens If I Wait Too Long to File a Personal Injury Claim?
There are many personal injury cases that effectively end before they even get started. A major reason this happens is the plaintiff waits too long to come forward and pursue their claim. For instance, many car accident victims do not realize there are strict time limits under Iowa law to sue a negligent driver for damages.
Accident Victim Files Lawsuit 2 Years Too Late
Let’s look at a recent decision by the Iowa Court of Appeals, Trana v. Smith, to help explain how the statute of limitations works. The plaintiff, Trana, sued multiple defendants after he sustained injuries in a car accident. The accident itself took place on August 17, 2013. The plaintiff filed his lawsuit on August 10, 2017.
The problem, as the Court of Appeals explained, is that Iowa has a two-year statute of limitations on this type of personal injury lawsuits. More precisely, Section 614.1 of the Iowa Code says the two-year limit applies to any claims “founded on injuries to the person or reputation,” whether based on “contract or tort.” And based on prior rulings by the Iowa Supreme Court, the two-year clock starts to run for the time when the plaintiff “has knowledge sufficient to put that person on inquiry notice.”
In cases such as this one, that date is obviously when the accident itself occurred. And since the plaintiff waited nearly four years after the accident to file his claim, the Court of Appeals said he was out of luck. No matter the merits of his claim, the lawsuit was barred by the statute of limitations.
Case Dismissed After Defendant Served 4 Days Late
But the statute of limitations is not the only legal deadline that personal injury victims need to contend with. In another recent decision, Prier v. Billhymer, the Court of Appeals upheld dismissal of a personal injury claim after the plaintiff failed to properly notify the defendant of her lawsuit within a specified time period. This case also involved a car accident. The plaintiff filed her negligence lawsuit against the defendant just before the expiration of the two-year statute of limitations.
But filing your lawsuit with the court is just the first step in the civil litigation process. You also need to formally serve the defendant. If service does not take place within 90 days of filing the complaint, the court may dismiss the case unless the plaintiff “shows good cause for the failure of service,” in which case the judge may extend the deadline.
Unfortunately, in this case the plaintiff did not serve the defendant until 94 days elapsed–four days past the service deadline. And since the plaintiff never asked for an extension of time, the court was forced to dismiss her case.
Do Not Delay in Seeking Legal Advice Following an Iowa Car Accident
So as you can see, legal deadlines matter. First, get proper medical treatment if you are injured in an accident, then speak with a qualified Southeast Iowa personal injury attorney following a car accident. If you need immediate legal assistance, contact the Noyes Law Office, P.C., today.