My dad was recently in a minor accident. What happened was that my neighbor backed his car out of his driveway too quickly and hit my dad on his bike. The driver stopped quickly, but my dad was knocked off his bike and fell on the road. The neighbor begged my dad not to report the accident–he didn’t want to get in trouble–and said he’d pay for any medical treatment my dad needed. My dad, a really nice guy, agreed.
Well, it turns out that my dad may have had a concussion, and his medical bills are starting to pile up. Now the neighbor thinks my dad is milking him for too much money, and is trying to cut my dad off. Is it too late for my dad to go to the cops or get legal help?
Your father’s heart is clearly in the right place, but relying on the kindness of others can have its drawbacks. It sounds as if this accident was clearly the fault of your father’s neighbor, which could mean that he’s legally liable for your father’s injuries and their resulting costs. But without a court order or a settlement, your father really can’t do much about that.
To get a court order, of course, he’d need to head to court. That means a personal injury lawsuit. Those are quite common in the United States–there are 7,000 such cases each year in the 75 most populous counties of the US alone.
Did he miss his chance? Not necessarily. While some of us think of law as an area in which an undotted i or an uncrossed t can make all the difference, the truth is that the law is fairly adaptable and can handle all sorts of strange situations. However, the law does have deadlines for certain things. Your father could not sue your neighbor for this incident 30 years from now, say lawyers at Allentown, Pennsylvania’s Thomas, Conrad & Conrad. The problem your dad could run into is with the “statute of limitations,” the laws which set down the rules for how quickly one must bring legal action in various cases. You may have heard of a statute of limitations in a criminal case, but lawsuits are governed by similar rules. It’s impossible to say if it’s too late for your father: each state has its own statute of limitations, and your letter did not mention how long it has been.
There is, however, an easy way for your father to find out. He should get a lawyer, say legal aids at Alabama’s Moore Law Firm. Simply put, the only legal advice your father should be getting is from an attorney familiar with his case, and the only way he can get that is to pay a lawyer a visit. Many attorneys offer free consultations, so this won’t necessarily cost him a thing. So tell him to call an attorney–he or she will give him all the answers he needs.
“A law is valuable, not because it is the law, but because there is right in it.” — Henry Ward Beecher