The statute of limitations for Arizona personal injury claims
The purpose of the statute of limitations is to protect defendants from never-ending threats of litigation, and to make sure lawsuits are brought when important evidence is still available.
If a plaintiff fails to file their lawsuit within the time limit, the defendant can have the plaintiff’s case dismissed. This means the plaintiff won’t recover any damages even if the defendant is clearly liable.
Let’s take a closer look.
|Arizona Statute of Limitations|
|Type of Case||Time Limit to File Suit||Arizona Statute|
|Personal injury||2 years||A.R.S. § 12-542|
|Product liability||2 years; or within 12 years of when the product was initially sold in some cases||A.R.S. §§ 12-551, 12-542(1)|
|Claims against the city, county, or state||1 year (claim must be filed within 180 days)||A.R.S. § 12-821.01|
|Libel/slander||1 year||A.R.S. § 12-541|
|Fraud||3 years||A.R.S. § 12-543(3)|
|Injury to personal property||2 years||A.R.S. § 12-542|
|Trespass||2 years||A.R.S. § 12-542(3)|
|Contracts||6 years (written); 3 years (oral)||A.R.S. § 12-543(1)|
|Collection of debt on account||3 years||A.R.S. § 12-543(2)|
|Judgments||4 years||A.R.S. § 12-544(3)|
How long do you have to file a personal injury lawsuit?
The deadline for filing a personal injury lawsuit in Arizona is generally 2 years. This means that if you’re injured by another person—whether the injury was caused by the other person’s negligence or an intentional action—you have 2 years to file suit with the court.
What if the lawsuit is against the city, county, or state?
If you want to file a claim against a public entity, public school, or a public employee in Arizona, you must file a claim within 180 days.
The claim must be in writing and must contain the following:
- Facts sufficient to permit the public entity or employee to understand the basis upon which liability is claimed
- The specific amount of money you’d be willing to accept to settle the claim
- The facts supporting that amount of money
The claim must be filed with the person authorized to accept service of process on behalf of the specific public entity or public employee.
Once the claim is filed, the public entity or employee has 60 days to respond. If the claim is denied (or if no response is received), you’re allowed to file a lawsuit. This lawsuit must be filed within 1 year of your injury.
Are there any special rules for product liability cases?
Product liability is a type of personal injury case and therefore a product liability suit must be filed within 2 years. However, there is a caveat. Under no circumstances can the lawsuit be filed more than 12 years after the product was first sold for use or consumption to the general public, unless the lawsuit is based on:
- Negligence of the manufacturer or seller, or
- Breach of an express warranty.
What is the statute of limitations in workers’ compensation cases?
In Arizona, a workers’ compensation claim must be filed within 1 year from the date of the injury (or from the date the injury is discovered).
When does the clock start ticking?
Once you know the applicable time limit for filing your lawsuit, you’ll need to know when the clock starts ticking.
For personal injury lawsuits, the 2-year time limit begins on the date the injury occurs. However, if you’re unaware of the injury on the date it occurs, the “discovery rule” delays the clock until the date you discover the injury (or until the date you should have discovered the injury).
Let’s look at an example:
Say you’re in a minor car accident on January 1, 2019. The car doesn’t have much damage and you don’t feel any pain. However, a week later you wake up with a stinging pain in your neck. You go to your doctor and they inform you that you’re experiencing the delayed symptoms of a whiplash injury caused by the car accident. When is the deadline for filing your lawsuit?
Normally, the clock would start ticking on the date of your injury (January 1, 2019). This would mean you’d have until January 1, 2021 (2 years) to file suit. However, under the discovery rule, the clock won’t start until January 8, 2019 (the date your injury was discovered). As a result, you would have until January 8, 2021 to file suit.
There are a couple of other situations where the clock may be delayed:
- Claims involving children under the age of 18: When a minor is injured, the 2-year deadline for filing a personal injury lawsuit is delayed until the child turns 18. A similar rule applies to individuals found to be of “unsound mind.” For these individuals, the clock is delayed until the individual is declared no longer disabled.
- When a person leaves the state of Arizona: If the person who caused your injuries leaves the state after the accident but before you’re able to file suit, the period of absence won’t be counted as part of the 2-year statute of limitations period. In other words, the clock is paused while they’re out of state.
Does the case have to be resolved by the filing deadline?
A 2-year time limit under the statute of limitations doesn’t mean you have to resolve your case within 2 years. The statute of limitations only addresses when you must file your lawsuit.
Some people want to wait until they’ve gathered all their evidence and undergone all their medical treatment before contacting an attorney to discuss filing a lawsuit. This is generally a bad idea. Keep in mind that lawsuits can be amended (changed to add or modify facts and causes of action). In fact, this is quite common, as most evidence isn’t collected until well after the lawsuit is filed.
Don’t risk missing the deadline to file your claim just because you want to collect a bunch of evidence first. Use our free online directory to locate an experienced Arizona attorney sooner than later.