How long do you have to file a lawsuit in the Hoosier State?
In Indiana, you only have a certain amount of time to file a civil lawsuit following your injury. This time limit is referred to as the statute of limitations.
Understanding the statute of limitations for your specific case is critical for one simple reason:
If you fail to file your lawsuit within the statute of limitations, your lawsuit will be dismissed and you won’t be able to recover ANY damages.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the statute of limitations for Indiana personal injury lawsuits.
Statute of limitations for Indiana personal injury lawsuits
Each “type” of case has its own statute of limitations. Here’s an overview of the statute of limitations for common civil cases in Indiana:
|Indiana Statute of Limitations|
|Type of case||Statute of limitations||Indiana statute|
|Personal injury||2 years||Indiana Code § 34-11-2-4(1)|
|Product liability||2 years||Indiana Code § 34-20-3-1|
|Medical malpractice||2 years||Indiana Code § 34-18-7-1|
|Legal malpractice||2 years||Indiana Code § 34-11-2-3|
|Libel/Slander||2 years||Indiana Code § 34-11-2-4(1)|
|Fraud||6 years||Indiana Code § 34-11-2-7(4)|
|Written contracts||10 years||Indiana Code § 34-11-2-11|
|Oral contracts||6 years||Indiana Code § 34-11-2-7|
Claims against local, county and state governments
Though the time periods listed above hold true in most cases, the statute of limitations is always shorter when suing the government.
Under Indiana’s Tort Claims Act, any person who wishes to sue the government must generally provide a tort claim notice to the appropriate government agency within 180 days.
Once notice is provided, the person can only file a lawsuit after the government denies the claim or fails to respond within 90 days.
When does the clock start running?
Knowing the applicable statute of limitations for your case is important, but when does the clock actually start ticking?
For personal injury lawsuits, the 2-year statute of limitations begins on the date you discover or should have discovered your injury. This is generally the same date as the accident, but not always.
Consider the following example:
Two days later, you wake up with pain in your neck. You go to the doctor and the doctor diagnoses you with severe whiplash and explains that symptoms sometimes appear days or even weeks after an accident.
When is the deadline for filing a lawsuit against the at-fault driver?
In most cases, the clock would start ticking on the date of the accident (January 1, 2020). This would mean you’d have until January 1, 2022 (2 years) to file suit. However, because you didn’t discover your injury until January 3, 2020, you would actually have until January 3, 2022, to file suit.
Exceptions to the Indiana statute of limitations
There are a few specific circumstances where the statute of limitations clock may be delayed or paused. In legal terms, this is referred to as “tolling.”
- Claims involving children under the age of 18 or individuals with a disability. If the injured person is a minor when the claim arises, the child will have 2 years from the day they turn 18 to file a lawsuit. A similar law applies to individuals with a legal disability. For these individuals, the clock is delayed until the individual is no longer disabled, at which point they will have 2 years to file a lawsuit.
- When a person leaves the state. If the person responsible for the victim’s injuries leaves the state of Indiana and becomes a “nonresident” before the lawsuit can be filed, the period of nonresidence won’t usually be counted as part of the statute of limitations.
- When a person takes steps to conceal themselves. If the person responsible for the victim’s injuries takes steps to conceal their liability from the plaintiff, the clock won’t generally start running until the period of concealment ends.
When to contact an Indiana personal injury attorney
There are 3 common beliefs that might keep you from meeting with an attorney. Don’t let them!
Here are the most common myths and misconceptions:
- You don’t think you can afford an attorney. Though you might not think you need an attorney, you might be surprised. Most personal injury attorneys offer free initial consultations. And because they generally don’t get paid unless you get paid, they’ll tell you whether you have a legitimate case from a legal standpoint that’s worth pursuing.
- You think you have plenty of time to file a lawsuit. Two years may sound like a long time, but your attorney will need a significant amount of time to properly investigate your claim, identify potential defendants, and draft and file a lawsuit. What’s more, the time you have to file a lawsuit might be much shorter than you initially think if your attorney identifies a government entity as a potential defendant.
- You think the statute of limitations has expired. Even if you think the statute of limitations has expired, there are a number of exceptions that might apply to your case. Before giving up, discuss your options with an attorney.
Need help finding an experienced personal injury attorney in your area? Consider using our free online legal directory.
See our guide Choosing a personal injury attorney.