“Statute of limitations” is the legal term for the amount of time you have from when the injury happened to when you must file a lawsuit. If you wait too long, the court can refuse to hear your case.
Each state has its own statutes of limitations based on the type of injury. In general, the clock begins to run on the date of the accident or injury. In situations where you might not be immediately aware of an injury (like some kinds of medical malpractice, for instance), the time would begin at diagnosis or when a reasonable person should’ve become aware of the condition.
A statute of limitations is established to preserve the integrity of a legal proceeding. A time limit helps ensure that evidence is intact and reliable through preservation of physical evidence or witness testimony.
It’s also a way that the court limits an injured person’s ability to continue to threaten a defendant indefinitely—or even blackmail them—if there wasn’t a time limit for filing a lawsuit.
Below is a list of some common causes of civil action and lawsuits in Montana, along with their statute of limitations:
|Cause of Action||Time Limit||Statute|
|Action based on broken written contract or obligation||8 years||Mont. Code Ann. § 27-2-202(1)|
|Action based on broken contract or obligation that is not written||5 years||Mont. Code Ann. § 27-2-202(2)|
|Action for broken obligation or liability that’s not a contract, account, or promise and not written||3 years||Mont. Code Ann. § 27-2-202(3)|
|Fraud or mistake||2 years||Mont. Code Ann. § 27-2-203|
|General and personal injury not based on a written instrument||3 years||Mont. Code Ann. § 27-2-204(1)|
|Wrongful death by wrongful act or negligence||3 years||Mont. Code Ann. § 27-2-204(2)|
|Wrongful death by homicide||10 years||Mont. Code Ann. § 27-2-204(2)|
|Libel or slander||2 years||Mont. Code Ann. § 27-2-204(3)|
|Assault and battery||2 years||Mont. Code Ann. § 27-2-204(3)|
|False imprisonment||2 years||Mont. Code Ann. § 27-2-204(3)|
|Seduction||2 years||Mont. Code Ann. § 27-2-204(3)|
|Medical malpractice||3 years (effective
July 1, 2019)
|Mont. Code Ann. § 27-2-205|
|Legal malpractice||3 years||Mont. Code Ann. § 27-2-206|
|Theft of, injury to, or trespass on property||2 years||Mont. Code Ann. § 27-2-207|
Your lawsuit might include two separate causes of action that have different statutes of limitations.
For example, let’s say you’re filing a personal injury lawsuit for a car crash that happened 9 months ago. The statute of limitations on your physical injuries (medical costs, lost wages, and other expenses) is 3 years based on the law for “general and personal injury not based on a written instrument.”
However, perhaps you also want to include the damage to your car that happened in the same accident. Vehicle damage is under “theft of, injury to, or trespass on property,” which has a 2-year statute of limitations. You’ll need to file your lawsuit within that 2-year limit in order to make claims for both your property loss and the physical injury.
There are certain special circumstances that extend a Montana statute of limitations, but these are rare.
A few of the possible reasons why a statute of limitations could be extended in Montana include:
Medical malpractice is one of those types of cases that is often so complex that it has its own rules.
The statute of limitations for Montana medical malpractice case is 3 years from the date of injury. This date changed from 2 years prior to July 1, 2019.
As in other types of personal injury cases, the clock begins to run on the date of injury or on the date that you should have known that the condition existed. This is also true for medical malpractice, except that you can’t file a lawsuit more than 5 years after the medical error was made.
There is an exception, though. If the defendant (i.e. the medical provider) knew or should’ve known that an error occurred but didn’t disclose it to the injured patient, the 5-year deadline doesn’t apply. If that happens, the statute of limitations stops running.
If you were injured because of someone else’s negligence, you deserve compensation for your expenses, and maybe for pain and suffering. Don’t miss out on the recovery you deserve because you waited too long to find out if you have a case. It’s hard to make the call to a personal injury lawyer—you might be nervous about the process, hesitant to share personal information, wondering if your case is worth pursuing, or maybe you’re not sure how much a lawsuit will cost. Many personal injury law firms offer an initial consultation at no cost.
Don’t let those concerns stop you from making the call. A personal injury lawyer will advise you about whether you have a case and what are the steps in the legal process. But, do it today. It’s never too soon to start working with an attorney after an accident or injury. Even if your insurance company is still involved in a claim, a personal injury attorney is there to represent your interests and be your advocate.
For starters, try asking friends and family if they have a referral. If not, the Enjuris personal injury law firm directory can direct you to a Montana injury lawyer who meets your needs. Find an attorney today who can help you recover what you deserve.