Tennessee has the shortest time of any state in the union to file a claim for personal injuries. (Only two other states have the same one-year statute of limitations from the date of injury to file a claim.) If a year goes by and you haven’t settled your case or properly filed a lawsuit, you’ll find yourself out of luck and will have to kiss any thoughts of recovery in your case good-bye.
This can be an issue for people out of state who have no idea of Tennessee’s one-year statute of limitations. I’ve run across lawyers in other states who think it’s two years or more in Tennessee; they couldn’t imagine it being less than that. I’ve had the unpleasant experience of having to sue such lawyers for not advising their clients properly and causing them great harm by losing their clients’ cases without even showing up for the fight.
Never wait until close to the year anniversary before filing your case. You should talk to a competent Tennessee personal injury lawyer before it gets too late. Cars get moved, fixed, or destroyed without photos. Skid marks disappear. Witnesses move, disappear, or die without their information and testimony properly recorded. Witnesses’ memories fade. If the statute of limitations slips by, so will your claim. Don’t delay speaking with a lawyer.
Insurance claims adjusters will sometimes intentionally delay your claim just to get you as close to the statute of limitation as possible. They will have already obtained all the documentation they need, but they’ll claim they just need a few more medical bills so they can properly evaluate your claim. Then next week, it’s another thing they need, perhaps a statement from your employer, but it will always be something else and then something else; they’re in no hurry; the last thing they want to do is speed up the process.
Be especially aware of any adjuster who says he or she is willing to give you an extension in writing on a statute of limitation just for you—that’s a huge red flag. One of my clients was told that by an insurance company. The client had suffered a severe injury and was afraid the “lawyers would take all of the money” if he hired one, so he didn’t at first. He was given an official-looking letter that guaranteed he could sue the insured if the company couldn’t resolve his case. As it turns out, the at-fault party the insurance company was protecting was working for another separate contractor; that meant there were two parties and thus two insurance companies responsible for paying the claim.
When I first met the client, the statute of limitations had already expired for the separate, unknown contractor, whose insurance company was thus off the hook. The at-fault party didn’t have enough insurance coverage with the insurance company that had given the written extension. Fortunately, we were able to fix this mistake, but a good lawyer would have found all the available coverage up front and not created the pit of despair my client had to endure. Getting an extension agreement past the statute of limitations with an insurance carrier is extremely risky. Please don’t ever do it.
There are some exceptions to the one-year time limit; minors have until one year past their eighteenth birthdays to file claims, but if that year slips by, they’ll be out of luck.
Time is your enemy; delay serves no one but the insurance company. Don’t needlessly endanger your case outcome by waiting.