Car Accidents: Statutes of Limitations

How long do I have to file a lawsuit after my car accident? What are the exceptions?

After a car accident, it's almost an insult to learn that you have a deadline to file a lawsuit or insurance claim.

The chaotic days after a car accident are filled with doctors' appointments, insurance forms and attorneys' questions.

Behind all of that is the quiet tolling of the statute of limitations.

State-by-State Car Accident Statutes of Limitations

Time limit for bringing a claim or lawsuit after a car accident

State

Time limit for personal injury
claim

Time limit for property damage claim

Link to State Statute

Alabama

2 years

2 years

Alabama Code 6-2-1, et. seq

Alaska

2 years

2 years

Alaska State. §09.10.070

Arizona

2 years

2 years

Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 12-542 et seq.

Arkansas

3 years

3 years

(PDF) Ark. Code Ann. § 16-56-101 et seq.

California

2 years

3 years

Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 312 et seq.

Colorado

3 years

3 years

C.R.S. 13-80-101(1)(n) (2009)

Connecticut

2 years

2 years

Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 52-575 et seq.

Delaware

2 years

2 years

Del. Code Ann. tit. 10, § 8101 et seq.

DC

3 years

3 years

D.C. Code § 12-301 et seq.

Florida

4 years

4 years

Fla. Stat. Ann. § 95.011 et seq.

Georgia

2 years

4 years

Ga. Code Ann. § 9-3-32 et seq.

Hawaii

2 years

2 years

Haw. Rev. Stat. § 657-7 et seq.

Idaho

2 years

3 years

Idaho Code § 5-218 et seq.

Illinois

2 years

5 years

735 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/13-201 et seq.

Indiana

2 years

2 years

(PDF) Ind. Code Ann. § 34-11-2-1 et seq.

Iowa

2 years

5 years

Iowa Code Ann. § 614.1 et seq.

Kansas

2 years

2 years

Kan. Stat. Ann. § 60-501 et seq.

Kentucky

1 years

2 years

Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 413.080 et seq.

Louisiana

1 years

1 years

La. civil code § 3492 et seq.

Maine

6 years

6 years

Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 14, § 752

Maryland

3 years

3 years

Md. Courts & Jud. Proc. Code Ann. § 5-101

Massachusetts

3 years

3 years

Mass. Ann. Laws ch. 260, § 1 et seq.

Michigan

3 years

3 years

Mich. Comp. Laws § 600.5801 et seq.

Minnesota

2 years

6 years

Minn. Stat. Ann. § 541.01 et seq.

Mississippi

3 years

3 years

Miss. Code. Ann. § 15-1-1 et seq.

Missouri

5 years

5 years

Mo. Rev. Stat. § 516.097 et seq.

Montana

3 years

2 years

Mont. Code Ann. § 27-2-201 et seq.

Nebraska

4 years

4 years

Neb. Rev. Stat. § 25-201 et seq.

Nevada

2 years

3 years

Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 11.010 et seq.

New Hampshire

3 years

3 years

N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 508:1 et seq.

New Jersey

6 years

6 years

N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2a:14-1 et seq.

New Mexico

3 years

4 years

N.M. Stat. Ann. § 37-1-1 et seq.

New York

3 years

3 years

N.Y. Civ. Prac. Laws & Rules § 201 et seq.

North Carolina

3 years

3 years

N.C. Gen. Stat. § 1-46 et seq.

North Dakota

6 years

6 years

(PDF) N.D. Cent. Code § 28-01-01 et seq.

Ohio

4 years

4 years

Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 2305.03 et seq.

Oklahoma

2 years

2 years

Okla. Stat. Ann. tit. 12, § 91 et seq.

Oregon

2 years

6 years

Or. Rev. Stat. § 12.010 et seq.

Pennsylvania

2 years

2 years

42 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5501 et seq.

Rhode Island

3 years

10 years

R. I. Gen. Laws § 9-1-12 et seq.

South Carolina

3 years

3 years

S.C. Code Ann. § 15-3-510 et seq.

South Dakota

3 years

6 years

S.D. Codified Laws Ann. § 15-2-1 et seq.

Tennessee

1 years

3 years

Tenn. Code Ann. § 28-3-101 et seq.

Texas

2 years

2 years

Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 16.001 et seq.

Utah

4 years

3 years

Utah Code Ann. § 78-12-22 et seq.

Vermont

3 years

3 years

Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 12, § 461 et seq.

Virginia

2 years

5 years

(PDF) Va. Code Ann. § 8.01-228 et seq.

Washington

3 years

3 years

Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 4.16.005 et seq.

West Virginia

2 years

2 years

W. Va. Code § 55-2-1 et seq.

Wisconsin

3 years

6 years

Wis. Stat. Ann. § 893.01 et seq.

Wyoming

4 years

4 years

Wyo. Stat. § 1-3-102 et seq.

What is the statute of limitations? It bars a claim after a certain period of time has passed. When the statute of limitations begins, the clock starts ticking from the time of the injury or when the plaintiff should have reasonably known of the injury or property damage.

Typical exceptions to the statute of limitations

While some states have their own specific exceptions created by statute or contract, there are universal exceptions that can toll the statute of limitations and extend the filing date beyond the statutory period.

  • 1

    The defendant has left the state: If the defendant isn't there to file a claim against, then how are you going to win your case? You can't file against a ghost. The courts understand this, and they give some leniency in terms of waiting for your defendant to come back to town.

  • 2

    The defendant is a minor/legally incompetent/legally unfit to stand trial: The statute of limitations is tolled until the incompetency is removed or the minor reaches age 18.

  • 3

    The defendant is dead or imprisoned: You can bring a claim against the defendant's estate. If the defendant is imprisoned, you can wait until he has made parole.

  • 4

    At war/active military duty: Courts generally wait until the state is no longer embattled for suits to continue. Likewise, if a party is on active military duty, the statute of limitations is tolled until he or she returns.

  • 5

    Tolling agreements: Both sides can enter a tolling agreement in order to waive the statute of limitations. This preserves the right to file for the plaintiff and can actually minimize court costs for the defendants because the certainty of the agreement allows both sides to clearly assess their positions and conduct effective negotiations.

  • 6

    Equitable tolling: This is when the plaintiff could not reasonably have discovered the cause of action, despite due diligence on his part, until after the statute of limitations period had passed (for example, an asbestos claim in which the plaintiff did not discover his cancer until 20 years later).

When the car accident statutes of limitations may be shorter

Car accidents involving a government entity

Depending on where an accident occurred (and, most importantly, with whom), the statute of limitations might be shortened dramatically. A government employee might also have immunity from suits. Some states only offer a six-month window in which to file a claim, and many have other state-specific pre-filing requirements. If these are not followed, a case can be barred entirely. See more about how to collect damages in a lawsuit involving a government vehicle.

Car accidents involving dram shop laws

Dram shop laws vary from state to state, with 43 states having adopted some form and allowing a degree of liability against drinking establishments that allow visibly intoxicated patrons to drive away drunk. Some states only allow 60 days before a claim is barred. If you have been injured, speak to an attorney in your state as soon as practicable.

A car accident attorney can help you navigate these complicated waters.

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