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Personal Injuries Blog

When Is It Too Late To Get A Lawyer For A Car Accident? A Detailed Guide

Dealing with the aftermath of a car accident can be challenging. From recovering from injuries to managing insurance claims, the process can be overwhelming. But amidst the chaos, an important question comes to mind: “When is it too late to get a lawyer for a car accident?”

At Spar & Bernstein, we understand the urgency of this question and the importance of timely assistance.

In this blog, we’ll share the steps to follow after an accident, the benefits of seeking timely legal counsel and the scenarios where the guidance of an experienced attorney becomes a must.

Looking for a car accident lawyer?

Contact our team at Spar & Bernstein!

Bradford H. Bernstein

This article was written and reviewed by Bradford H. Bernstein, a second-generation leader at Law Offices of Spar & Bernstein, P.C., who has helped over 100,000 clients with immigration and personal injury issues. Brad joined the firm in 1993, became a partner in 1997, and assumed leadership in 2000 after Harry Spar retired.


When Is It Too Late To Get A Lawyer For A Car Accident?

It is too late to get a lawyer for a car accident once the statute of limitations for filing a legal claim has expired.

The statute of limitations refers to the legal time limit within which you have the right to file a claim.

But how long do you have to get a lawyer after a car accident? The time can vary by state, type of accident and liable parties.

For example, in New York, the deadline to file a personal injury claim is:

  • Three years from the date of the accident for third-party claims
  • One year and 90 days from the date of the accident for suing government agencies — this process starts with a Notice of Claim, which must be filed no later than 90 days from the date of the accident
  • Two years from the death of a loved one, if the car accident resulted in a fatality

Once the statute of limitations expires, you typically lose the right to sue.

In rare cases, you might still be able to file a claim even after the statute of limitations has expired — for example, if you were a minor at the time of the accident, were absent from the jurisdiction or were mentally incapacitated.

Getting legal advice promptly after a car accident is crucial. That’s why partnering with an experienced personal injury attorney can make sure you take the necessary steps on time and pursue fair compensation for your injuries.

Founded in 1958, The Law Offices of Spar & Bernstein operate in New York and New Jersey. We have fought for the rights of thousands of car accident victims, reaching successful outcomes and negotiating substantial settlements.

Our experienced and compassionate attorneys will review your case, identify the liable parties, estimate how much you can sue for and help you file your claim on time.

Immediate Actions To Take After A Car Accident

Despite the stress and emotional turmoil following a car accident, taking the right steps is important. This sets the groundwork for successful insurance claims and legal proceedings.

Here is what to pay attention to after a car accident:

  • Ensure safety: Move to a safe location to avoid further accidents or injuries.
  • Check if someone is injured: Assess if you, your passengers or other accident participants have sustained injuries. Call emergency services if medical attention is needed. Even if you think the injuries are not serious or the symptoms seem insignificant, seek medical evaluation after the accident promptly — this will help you ensure timely treatment and document your injuries.
  • Contact law enforcement: Report the accident to the police, especially if there are injured people or significant property damage. Get a copy of the accident report. (Read more on whether you can amend a police report after a car accident in our recent article.)
  • Exchange information: Exchange contact, insurance and vehicle details with the other parties. Make sure to collect names, addresses, phone numbers, insurance policy numbers and license plate numbers.
  • Document the scene: Take photos of the accident scene, including vehicle damage and positions, road conditions or traffic signs.
  • Gather witness information: Obtain contact information from witnesses to the accident whose statements can support a potential lawsuit.
  • Notify your insurance company: Report the accident to your insurance company as soon as possible to initiate the claims process.
  • Preserve evidence: Keep any evidence related to the accident. This might include damaged property or clothing, records of medical treatment and expenses, a diary of your physical, psychological and emotional trauma and more.
  • Do not admit fault: Refrain from admitting fault or making statements about the accident beyond providing necessary information to authorities and insurance companies.

The Importance Of Seeking Legal Counsel On Time

Seeking legal counsel promptly after a car accident provides numerous advantages that can improve your chances of achieving a favorable outcome in your case.

Benefits Of Seeking Legal Advice Promptly

  • Protection of legal rights: Consulting a lawyer early after the accident makes sure that your rights are protected from the very beginning. It also prevents you from making mistakes that could harm your case later on.
  • Guidance through legal processes: An experienced lawyer can explain the legal procedures involved in your case, helping you navigate complex paperwork, deadlines and court requirements.
  • Preservation of evidence: A timely legal consultation can help you understand how to preserve crucial evidence, such as accident scene photos, medical records and witness statements — all of which can strengthen your case.
  • Maximization of compensation: An experienced attorney can assess the full extent of your injuries and losses and pursue maximum compensation for economic and non-economic damages.
  • Representation in negotiations: Your lawyer can handle communications and negotiations with insurance companies on your behalf, making sure that you don’t accept a settlement that’s less than what you deserve.
  • Preparation for litigation: If negotiations fail to reach a satisfactory outcome, a knowledgeable lawyer on your side can help you prepare your case for potential litigation.
  • Peace of mind: Prompt legal counsel can alleviate stress and uncertainty during this challenging time, allowing you to focus on your recovery.

Potential Consequences Of Delaying Legal Action

Delaying legal action after a car accident can have significant consequences that might affect your rights and interests.

  • Statute of limitations expiry: Waiting too long to take legal action can lead to the statute of limitations expiring. This can prevent you from filing a lawsuit and seeking fair compensation for your injuries.
  • Loss of evidence: Delaying legal action might lead to the loss or degradation of crucial evidence. Lack of evidence, in turn, can weaken your case.
  • Diminished witness memory: Delaying legal action can result in witnesses forgetting key details or becoming unavailable. This can make your version of events challenging to prove.
  • Complications in establishing causation: Waiting too long can impede establishing a clear link between the accident and your injuries — especially if there is a gap in medical treatment or documentation.
  • Reduced settlement offers: Delaying legal action can enable the insurance companies to offer you lower settlement amounts, as they might perceive your case as weak or less urgent.
  • Financial burden: Waiting too long can prolong the time it takes to obtain compensation. This can leave you bearing the financial burden of medical bills, lost wages and other expenses related to your injuries and diminish your ability to access important resources for medical treatment and rehabilitation.
  • Increased stress: Delaying legal action can cause stress and anxiety due to unresolved legal matters. This can impact your emotional well-being and overall quality of life.
An injured man and his wife reading legal papers at home​
To increase the chances of a favorable outcome for your case, seek legal counsel promptly​

When Do You Need A Car Accident Lawyer?

Navigating the aftermath of a car accident can be daunting — especially in situations involving disputed liability, serious injuries, complex claims or looming legal deadlines. In these cases, the experience of a tenacious car accident lawyer becomes invaluable.

  • Disputed liability: If fault for the accident is disputed by the parties involved, a car accident lawyer can gather evidence, negotiate with insurance companies and represent your interests in court to make sure you are not wrongly held liable for the accident.
  • Serious injuries: If you have suffered severe injuries such as traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury or permanent disability, a car accident lawyer can help you pursue maximum compensation for medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering. They will consider the long-term impact of the injuries on your life and future.
  • Complex claims: When car accidents involve multiple parties, commercial vehicles, defective products or uninsured drivers, navigating the complexities of insurance coverage and liability can be challenging. A car accident lawyer can provide invaluable insights to make sure your rights are protected.
Scales of justice next to two car toys – the concept of legal counsel after a car accident​
Seeking legal counsel is crucial of your case involves serious injuries and disputed liability ​

Were You Involved In A Car Accident? Contact Spar & Bernstein

Our team of experienced car accident lawyers at Spar & Bernstein is dedicated to helping people who have suffered injuries in car accidents for 50+ years, helping them navigate the complex legal process.

Providing personalized and compassionate support and guidance every step of the way, we make sure all necessary documents and paperwork are filed correctly and on time.

Whether through negotiation or litigation, we work tirelessly to ensure that you receive the justice and compensation you deserve.

From gathering evidence to filling out insurance forms and meeting legal deadlines, we handle the administrative burden so that you can fully focus on your recovery and move forward with your life.

Were you injured in a car accident?

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How Long Do You Have To Get A Lawyer After A Car Accident? FAQs

If you have not found the answers you were looking for, check out our FAQs section for more insights on when to hire a car accident lawyer.

Is it too late to get a lawyer if I just discovered injuries from a past car accident?

If you recently discovered injuries from a past car accident, schedule a consultation with our experienced attorneys at Spar & Bernstein as soon as possible. Depending on the circumstances, there might be exceptions to the statute of limitations that could allow you to pursue legal action.

Can I hire a lawyer after receiving a settlement offer from the insurance company?

Yes, you can still hire a lawyer even after receiving a settlement offer from the insurance company. A lawyer will review and assess the offer and handle the negotiations on your behalf to make sure you receive fair compensation for your injuries.

Can I still get a lawyer if I initially handled my car accident case on my own?

Yes, you can still get a lawyer even if you initially handled your case independently. A car accident lawyer will review your case, assess and explain your legal options and provide guidance to help you pursue maximum compensation.

Need a personal injury lawyer?

Contact our team at Spar & Bernstein!