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How Soon Should I File A Lawsuit?

You may have two years to file a lawsuit, but there are good reasons not to wait that long. In a previous blog, we discussed the general two year tort statute of limitations.  There are reasons why filing your personal injury lawsuit sooner, rather than later, is a good idea.

Non-parties

Indiana has set up a statutory system that allows Defendants to name other individuals who may be responsible for your injuries. These people are generally called a non-party. When a Defendant names a non-party, they are saying that this other person is partially, or entirely, at fault. If a non-party is not named, you could end up losing out on part, or all of your recovery. 

Examples of this come up in car crash injuries. Let’s say you are rear ended by a pickup truck hauling a trailer. This seems like a simple car crash case. But, the driver that hit you then says that the brake controller for his trailer was faulty and names the brake controller company as a non-party.  

Assume you do not sue the brake controller company and take your case to trial. At trial the driver that hit you blames the brake controller for the crash. Defendants always like to blame the “empty chair.”  

If the jury agrees, it could assess all fault and damages against the brake controller company. The problem here is if you did not properly sue this company, you will not be able to recover against them. Meaning, you just endured a lot of work for no recovery.

This scenario can also come up in a slip and fall case. You sue the business, or property owner where you fell. The business then names their maintenance company as a non-party under the theory the maintenance company was responsible to salt the sidewalk. Another case example is one where an elevator door closed on a client, knocking her over. The property owner named the elevator company, and the specific company that made the part controlling the door, as non-parties. 

Another example of a non-party in a personal injury case is: someone slips and falls at the Porter County Fair. They then sue the Porter County Fair. The Fair then names the carnival operator as a non-party.

Deadline To Name Non-parties

How do you avoid the above scenarios? Bottom line, file your case early forcing the Defendant to name non-parties. It is easy to amend a Complaint and sue a non-party. But, the same two year statute of limitations applies to everyone. 

If it’s more than two years after a crash, the Complaint cannot be amended to sue a non-party. If the case is filed the day a two year statute runs, and the Defendant names a non-party a week later, you have run your statute of limitations as to suing that non-party.

The state of Indiana has set up a framework that allows this situation to be avoided. This can be found at Indiana Code § 34-51-216. Basically, if you sue a Defendant more than 150 days before your statute runs, the Defendant then has 45 days to name non-parties. This allows the Plaintiff time to amend his or her complaint adding in the non-party as a Defendant. Once the non-party is sued, the case progresses like any other. This type of non-party pleading is one reason Martz & Lucas recommends filing cases as soon as possible.

There are other valid reasons to file a personal injury case early: witnesses or documents can disappear and insurance companies are less likely to believe you are still hurting from an injury that occurred a year earlier

Contact Martz & Lucas For Help Filing Your Personal Injury Case

Remember that this article is not a substitute for hiring an attorney who will review the specific facts of your case. At Martz and Lucas, we handle all types of personal injury cases in Northern Indiana.  Our team of professionals takes every case seriously and works to maximize your recovery. Contact us today at (219) 462-1529 or info@martzandlucas.com