Find out how long you have to file a claim before it’s forever barred
A personal injury lawsuit officially commences when you file and serve the complaint. All states have time limits, called statutes of limitation, that limit the amount of time you have to begin a lawsuit following an accident.
It’s absolutely imperative that you abide by the applicable statute of limitations. If you fail to file your lawsuit within the designated time limit, your claim will be permanently barred.
Now that you understand the importance of statutes of limitation, let’s take a look at the statutes of limitation for Alabama personal injury lawsuits.
Statutes of limitation for Alabama personal injury lawsuits
Alabama does not have a “one size fits all” statute of limitations. Rather, each type of case has its own statute of limitations.
Here’s an overview of the statutes of limitation for common civil cases in Alabama.
|Alabama Statutes of limitation|
|Type of case||Statute of limitations||Alabama statute|
|Personal injury||2 years||Alabama Code § 6-2-38|
|Product liability||1 year||Alabama Code § 6-5-502|
|Medical malpractice||2 years||Alabama Code § 6-5-482|
|Legal malpractice||2 years||Alabama Code § 6-5-574|
|Wrongful death||2 years||Alabama Code § 6-2-38|
|Libel/slander||2 years||Alabama Code § 6-2-38|
|Fraud||2 years||Alabama Code § 6-2-38|
|Breach of contract||6 years||Alabama Code § 6-2-34|
|Conversion (theft) of property||6 years||Alabama Code § 6-2-34|
Special rules for suing government entities
It may be necessary to file a personal injury lawsuit against a government entity. Here are some accidents that would likely lead to a lawsuit against a government entity:
- A car accident caused by a large pothole or obscured traffic sign
- A car accident involving a government employee (such as a postal worker or utility driver)
- A slip and fall that occurs inside a government-owned building (such as a town hall or library)
- An assault that occurs in a public park
When suing a government entity, the statute of limitations is reduced. Generally speaking, the time limits are as follows:
- Claims against municipalities must be filed within 6 months of the injury.
- Claims against counties must be filed within 12 months of the injury.
There are a number of hoops you must jump through when suing the government. We strongly recommend meeting with an experienced personal injury attorney if you think you may have a claim against the government.
When does the clock start ticking in Alabama?
Once you know the time limit that applies to your claim, you need to know when the clock starts ticking.
In most cases, the clock starts ticking on the date of the injury.
Let’s look at an example:
Jim is riding his bicycle eastbound on Waterway Boulevard in Gulf Shore, Alabama, on January 1, 2022.
Regina, who is also heading eastbound, is texting while driving. Because she’s distracted by her phone, she doesn’t see Jim and hits him with her car.
Jim suffers a serious back injury and wants to sue Regina.
When is the last day Jim can file his personal injury lawsuit?
Under Alabama Code § 6-2-38, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims is 2 years. This means that Jim absolutely has to file his lawsuit against Regina by January 1, 2024. If he fails to do so, his claim will be forever barred.
There are, however, exceptions to the general rule that the clock starts ticking on the date of the injury:
Discovery rule. The discovery rule pauses the statute of limitations clock until the date the plaintiff discovers (or should have discovered) they suffered an injury.
Let’s look at an example:
Amir was rear-ended in a low-speed car accident on January 1, 2022. Amir got out of the car and felt completely fine. He examined his car for damages but didn't find any. He nevertheless exchanged information with the person who rear-ended him and headed home.
On January 7, 2022, Amir wakes up with terrible pain in his back. He makes an appointment with his doctor, who tells him that he likely suffered a minor spinal alignment issue after being rear-ended. Amir will require physical therapy to correct the issue.
What is the last day Amir can file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver?
- January 1, 2024
- January 7, 2024
Normally, Amir would have 2 years from the date of the accident to file a claim (i.e., January 1, 2024). However, under Alabama’s discovery rule, Amir has 2 years from the date he reasonably discovered the injury (i.e., January 7, 2024).
- Equitable tolling. If you know you suffered an injury but cannot, through the exercise of reasonable diligence, obtain the necessary information to figure out whether the injury was due to wrongdoing (or who caused the injury), then the statute of limitations is tolled (i.e., paused) until you can figure out that information.
- The plaintiff is under the age of 18. If you’re under the age of 18 when you suffer the injury giving rise to the lawsuit, the statute of limitations doesn’t start running until you turn 18.
- The plaintiff is mentally incompetent. If you’re mentally incompetent when you suffer the injury giving rise to the lawsuit, the statute of limitations typically doesn’t start running until you’re declared mentally competent. However, if you have a court-ordered fiduciary (someone who acts on your behalf), the fiduciary must file the lawsuit within the regular statute of limitations.
Should you contact an Alabama personal injury attorney?
Meeting with a personal injury attorney can be intimidating. It’s easy to convince yourself that you don’t need an attorney just so you can avoid the headache of finding and meeting with one. Don’t let your fear of the unknown ruin your chances of recovering damages that will help you get your life back on track after an accident.
Here are 3 good reasons to take the leap and meet with a personal injury attorney:
- An experienced personal injury attorney in your area is easy to find. The internet, television and billboards are all filled with advertisements for lawyers. Finding an experienced attorney in your area can feel overwhelming. Let us ease your mind. You can find an experienced Alabama personal injury attorney in your area using our free online directory. Need more tips about choosing the right attorney for your claim? Take a look at our article on how to find the perfect personal injury attorney.
- Most initial consultations are free. Are you on the fence about whether to hire an attorney? Most people don’t realize that almost all initial consultations are absolutely free. You lose nothing by meeting with an attorney, and you have everything to gain.
- Your attorney can maximize your award, and you probably won’t pay a penny unless you recover damages. Personal injury attorneys typically work on a contingency fee basis. This means they don’t get paid unless you recover damages. Consequently, the attorney you meet with will almost certainly be honest about the value of your claim and your chances of recovery.