First, for readers unfamiliar with legalese, prescription (commonly referred to as the “statute of limitations”) is a state law that limits the amount of time a potential plaintiff can let elapse before he or she files their lawsuit with the court. The prescriptive period will vary depending on the state in which the accident occurred and nature of accident in question. The statute applicable to automobile accidents in Louisiana is Civil Code Article 3492, which states: “Delictual actions are subject to a liberative prescription of one year. The prescription period begins to run from the day injury or damage is sustained.” The “date of injury” for most, if not every, automobile crash cases is the date of the crash itself. In other words, Louisiana state law sets a deadline of one year from the date of the crash to file a personal injury lawsuit against the responsible party. As a brief but important aside, this same one-year deadline applies to claims for property damage resulting from an automobile accident.
Louisiana law takes a very similar approach if someone died as a result of an automobile accident. The family or representative of the deceased victim may pursue a wrongful death lawsuit against the responsible party within one year from the date of death, as per Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure Article 2315.2. The crux of the difference between claims for injury and claims for death is that the death often occurs after the date of the crash, and therefore may allow for a later prescription date. For example, if a crash occurred January 1, 2016 wherein the victim survived until February 1, 2016, the family or representative of the deceased could file a lawsuit against the responsible party any time before February 2, 2017. Using that same example, if the victim was merely injured in the January 1, 2016 incident, he would need to file a lawsuit before January 1, 2017.
In either scenario, if you attempt to file a lawsuit after Louisiana’s one-year deadline has passed, the court will almost certainly dismiss the case against the responsible party and you will be barred from recovering against them.
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However, if you or any resident family member carries uninsured/under-insured motorist (“UM”) coverage, the prescriptive period to file a claim against an UM policy is two years, per LA Rev Stat § 9:5629. Nevertheless, recovery under this type of coverage is highly policy-specific and dependent on the facts of the case. If you find yourself in a situation where more than one year has passed since the date of accident and you believe that you are covered by either your own or a resident relative’s UM policy, you should contact a lawyer to look into whether you are able to pursue a claim.
As a general approach, if you are involved in an automobile accident and believe that you may be injured as a result, err on the side of caution and consult your personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney will be able to advise you on how to pursue medical treatment, protect the viability of your case, and ensure that you do not run afoul of the prescription laws of your state.
If you or a loved one has been injured due to an automobile accident, contact the personal injury attorneys of Morris Bart today. You can fill out the free case evaluation form, Live Chat with us, or call us at 800-537-8185. Our phones are answered 24 hours a day and we have offices across Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Arkansas.