Time is not on Your Side

One Houston resident recently received a nasty surprise regarding the consequences of waiting to take legal action in an 18-wheeler accident.

In the case of Jackson v. Saia Motor Freight Line, Plaintiff was driving on I-45 in Houston on October 17, 2010 when she was hit by an 18-wheeler. The force of the impact was so strong that Plaintiff’s vehicle skidded and rolled several times; Plaintiff was ejected from the vehicle, despite the fact that she had been wearing her seatbelt. After, Plaintiff apparently fell into a coma, and remained in a coma for the next six months, and did not re-gain the ability to speak until June, 2011.

Plaintiff finally got around to filing a lawsuit regarding the accident on October 1, 2012 – almost exactly two years after the incident had occurred. After filing suit, plaintiff waited another eight months before serving process upon the defendant in the case.

In response, the Defendant stated that the lawsuit should be dismissed because Plaintiff missed something called the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations is essentially a time limit for filing a lawsuit. In the case of 18-wheeler accidents in Texas, the statute of limitations is two years from the time that the Plaintiff was injured. Defendant also claimed that Plaintiff failed to use diligence in serving process by waiting eight months after filing suit.

The Court stated that “The timely filing of a suit, standing alone, does not interrupt the running of the statute of limitations; a plaintiff must also exercise reasonable diligence in obtaining issuance and service of citation. If service is diligently effected after limitations have expired, the date of service will relate back to the date of filing.” The Court noted that Plaintiff filed suit within the two year time limit (barely), but then did not serve Defendant for eight more months. Because Plaintiff did not use diligence in serving the Defendant, she was considered to have missed the two-year deadline. Plaintiff’s case was dismissed, which is unfortunate for her – it is likely she would have won hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of dollars had the lawsuit gone forward, due to the severity of her injuries.

There are many reasons to file a suit as early as possible after an 18-wheeler accident. As time passes, memories fade, evidence is lost, wounds heal, and it generally becomes harder and harder to prove fault and injuries and to otherwise win an 18-wheeler case. A plaintiff will be at an advantage if the call an attorney as soon as possible after the incident, ideally within the first few days. What is more, in Texas, Plaintiffs only have two short years to bring a claim. As illustrated in Jackson v. Saia Motor Freight Line, if legal action is delayed for too long, it is entirely possible for the Court to discard Plaintiff’s entire case, making any recovery for any damages, medical or otherwise, impossible.

If you or a loved one have been injured in an accident, Call Carabin Shaw we are here to help  

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