When your child is involved in an automobile accident, whether it is serious or not, can easily be one of the scariest experiences as a parent. Your parental instincts kick in and you want to ensure that they are safe and have them examined immediately by the best physicians. You want them to heal as quickly as possible.

While a lawsuit may not be your first priority after your child has been in an accident, contacting a lawyer as soon as practical is always best.  On the other hand, contacting an attorney may be the very first step you take because you do not know who to trust or what to do.  When your child is injured, it can be overwhelming and knowing who to turn to may be confusing. Insurance companies and risk-management groups may try to manipulate you during this emotional time. That is why we suggest contacting us immediately after the incident. We advise you of all of your rights and options and your child’s rights and options. We take the necessary steps to ensure that should you or your child wish to file a lawsuit, the integrity of your case is protected from the inception. 

Why is contacting an attorney immediately important?

Minors injured in motor vehicle accidents have a “tolled” (or put on hold) statute of limitations (time to start a lawsuit).  While this is an advantage because your child has more time than an adult involved in an accident, it may be problematic once the lawsuit is filed. The passage of time could put your child at a disadvantage especially if the proof is not preserved and the parties, insurance companies, and policies cannot be located. Even where you want to take your time filing a lawsuit, contacting an attorney shortly after the accident can eliminate any disadvantage caused by time. [Sidebar: Regardless of your child’s age at the time of the motor vehicle accident, a No-Fault application must be filed within thirty (30) days after the accident.]

How long does my child have to file a lawsuit?

In New York State, actions for injuries sustained in motor vehicle accidents is three (3) years against an individual or corporation. If your child is under 18 years old at the time of the accident, the statute of limitations starts to run from his or her 18th birthday. This means that your child can start an action up until his/her 21st birthday. Your child does not have to wait until he or she meets the age of majority to file an action. It may not be in your child’s best interest to wait. As your child’s parent or guardian, you can hire an attorney on their behalf.

If your child is over the age of 18 at the time of the accident, he or she will have three (3) years from the date of the motor vehicle accident caused by an individual or corporation to file. Parents frequently handle or have significant involvement in their child’s affairs when they are young adults. Once your child is over 18, you can guide and advise them, but they have to hire their attorney.

How long does my child have to start a lawsuit if the government is an at-fault party?

Unlike the time to start a lawsuit, if the at-fault party is a governmental agency, there is a 90-day filing requirement that is not tolled for a minor. Therefore, even if your child is injured as an infant and has two decades to file a lawsuit, the 90-day Notice of Intention or Notice of Claim requirement must be satisfied. Although there are avenues for filing a late Notice of Intention or Notice of Claim, their success is not guaranteed. It is at the discretion of the court to grant additional time to file the Notice of Intention or Notice of Claim. Even in instances where additional time to file is permitted, the length of the extension the court shall consider is usually rather short and depends on whether there was excusable delay and that the government had an opportunity to investigate your claim. Be cautioned, you never want to rely on requesting permission to file a late notice.  Timely filing is always the better option.  This is especially true where your child has been severely injured, as your child’s right to sue may be waived as a result. Contacting an attorney as close to the accident as possible will preserve his/her rights. Tocci Law can determine if the government is responsible. Contacting us immediately is most beneficial as it may be difficult to determine whether or not the government is an at-fault party.

We recommend contacting us as soon as practical as we will advise you of you and your child’s rights and timely satisfy the necessary requirements. Schedule a complimentary consultation to discuss your case: Law Offices of Jennifer G. Tocci, P.C., (631) 343-7676 // assistant@toccilaw.com.

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