How Long After a Car Accident Can You Claim an Injury?

Car Accident | January 20, 2022

If you get injured in a car accident in Lowell, Massachusetts, you only have a limited amount of time to file a claim. As is the case in every state, Massachusetts has a strict law known as a statute of limitations that places a deadline on an injured victim’s right to bring a cause of action. It is important to act quickly after a car accident– not only to meet your deadline but also to preserve important evidence that can support your case.

What Is the Statute of Limitations in Massachusetts?

In Massachusetts, there is a statute of limitations of three years on most personal injury cases. This means that after a car accident, you have no more than three years to file your injury claim. If you do not bring your lawsuit in your county’s civil courthouse by three years from the date of the crash, the courts will most likely refuse to hear the case and you will forfeit the right to recover financial compensation. It is important to pay close attention to your three-year window.

Note that the statute of limitations only applies to a personal injury lawsuit – not a claim filed with an insurance company. You must file your car insurance claim as soon as possible after a collision, as most auto insurers have deadlines of just 24 to 72 hours. If you miss the car insurance company’s deadline to report a crash, it could be a reason for the company to deny benefits. If settlement negotiations break down and you need to explore the option of filing a lawsuit, keep in mind that you only have three years to do so. 

Exceptions to the Rule

Although Massachusetts’ three-year deadline applies to most personal injury and car accident lawsuits, there are some exceptions to the rule. In special circumstances, the courts may enforce a shorter or longer time limit. These exceptions include:


  • The discovery rule. The discovery rule states that if a car accident victim does not discover his or her injury until after the date of the collision, the statute of limitations will be tolled (extended) until three years from the date of discovery. This may apply to a case involving delayed or hidden car accident injuries.


  • Claims against the government. If you were hit by a driver who was an on-duty government employee, such as a city bus driver or police officer, the law in Massachusetts states that you have two years to file a formal claim and three years for a lawsuit.


  • Car accidents involving injured minors. If you wish to file a car accident claim on behalf of your injured child, the standard statute of limitations applies. However, your child also has 3 years from the date of his or her 18th birthday to file his or her own lawsuit, if desired.


  • Fatal car accident (wrongful death claim). A lawsuit brought by surviving family members or a representative of the estate for a deceased individual must be filed within three years of the date of the victim’s death. 


  • Car accident case involving a crime. If your car accident case involves criminal acts by either driver, such as vehicular homicide, drunk driving or a hit-and-run, the Massachusetts courts will generally toll the deadline until the completion of the criminal case.

It is important to speak to a car accident lawyer as soon as possible about a potential lawsuit so that you do not risk missing your filing deadline. If you miss the statute of limitations, your case may be rendered invalid. Waiting too long to speak to a lawyer can also result in the loss of important evidence, such as accurate eyewitness statements. Contact a Lowell car accident lawyer without delay at (978) 441-4500 if you get injured in a collision.