The period before you file a claim in an injury case is legally distinct from what comes after. A major feature of the pre-claim period is the timeline. With a handful of exceptions in a few states, nearly all injury cases are under legally imposed time pressures before the victim files. Let's look at what the timeline is like during this period.
Statute of Limitations
For the majority of cases in nearly all states, the statute of limitations is two years from the time of the incident in question. A statutory limit means you only have X amount of time to file the claim. Otherwise, the defense can wiggle out of it simply by showing a court that the victim didn't start the official process soon enough.
There are some exceptions to the two-year timeline. Many states have rules that cut the statutory limit down significantly if you're filing a claim against the government. If your case involves a government agency or location, you will want to discuss it with a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. An attorney can tell you what the rules are in the state where the incident happened.
Similarly, you may have longer if the case involves exposure to toxic materials. Some states also have rules allowing longer or no limits on child sex abuse claims, too. Also, many states have rules that don't start the clock on the limit for repetitive stress injuries until the victim discovers the issue. Once more, consult with a local personal injury attorney to learn what applies where you plan to file.
You have two years to formally file your initial claim. A personal injury lawyer will want to make good use of the time to investigate the case. For example, they'll want to be sure you're pursuing the claim against the right party. Similarly, they'll look for evidence from the scene of the incident, such as videos and photos. A lawyer will interview witnesses.
Making a Demand
The endgame is to send a demand letter to the defendant or their insurance provider. Once you send a demand letter, you have satisfied the statutory requirements so the clock stops. You can then take as much time as necessary to negotiate with the defendant.
A demand letter should state who you are and what happened. Likewise, a personal injury attorney will state why they believe you're entitled to compensation for your injuries. Similarly, they'll explain why the defendant is the one who should pay. Finally, the letter will tally up the financial demands for things like lost wages, pain and suffering, and medical bills.
For more information, contact a personal injury lawyer in your area.