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What are the time limits for personal injury compensation claims?
When you've been injured in an auto accident, motorcycle accident, slip and fall or some other incident that could qualify as a personal injury, you might be interested in filing a claim to seek personal injury compensation.
Personal injury compensation can come in quite useful since it can help injured parties cover the cost of medical bills they incurred as a result of another party's negligence, and they can also provide them with reimbursement for property damage as well as lost wages.
Some personal injury claims may even be eligible for punitive damages for emotional stress and so on.
In order to file a personal injury claim, though, you first must ensure that you file your personal injury claim within the time frame allotted by law.
Statute of limitations Overview
A statute of limitation specifies how long you have to bring a lawsuit against someone for harming you.
- Generally, from 1-6 years, most commonly 2 years.
- Starts from the time you were injured.
- Varies by:
- Your state
- Your type of claim
- The time range can lengthen (or shorten) with a few exceptions.
- Court rulings can also affect how the statute is interpreted
Every state has statutes of limitation for filing different types of lawsuits
Every state has statutes of limitation for filing different types of lawsuits. These statutes specify the deadlines that claimants have for filing claims in a variety of scenarios.
Statutes of limitations serve as very strict deadlines. If your claim is filed outside the designated statute of limitation, then your case will likely be dismissed for failing to adhere to the statute.
While there are a few exceptions that might allow your case to be heard even if you filed after the statute of limitations, it's best to file within the appropriate time limit provided to avoid this issue even arising.
Statute of limitations for personal injury cases
There is no universal standard for statute of limitations across all states.
Instead, the statute of limitations for personal injury cases is different from state to state. (See car accident statutes of limitations by state.)
The general time frame may range from as little as one year to as long as six years.
For instance, whereas the time limits to file a personal injury case in California is three years, in Florida it's four years and in Colorado and Texas it's two years. Tennessee, Kentucky and Louisiana have the shortest statute of limitations for personal injury cases with a time limit of one year to file, and Maine has the longest time limit of 6 years to file.
Different time limits for different types of personal injury claims
Some states impose different time limits for filing a personal injury lawsuit depending upon the type of claim the plaintiff plans on filing.
For instance, whereas the general statute of limitations to file a personal injury claim is two years in Colorado, if the injuries were incurred as the result of a motor vehicle accident, then the statute is extended one year to make the limit three years.
When do time limits begin?
The time limit for filing personal injury cases begins from the date of your incident.
In other words, the statute of limitations is enforceable from the date of the time you incurred your injuries due to the negligence of the other party.
For instance, if you sustained a traumatic brain injury in Florida on July 1st, then you have four years from that date to file a personal injury lawsuit against the other party and still be within the statute of limitations.
Exceptions to the statute of limitations
As we mentioned earlier, there are a few exceptions that can cause a personal injury lawsuit filed after the standard statute of limitations time limit set by the state in which it's filed to still be considered.
The "Discovery Rule" exception
Most states have the Discovery Rule exception which basically extends the filing deadline of the statute of limitations. Instances in which this rule is applicable include when the injured person:
- didn't know that he or she was injured, or
- didn't know that the potential defendant's actions may have caused the injury
In addition to the Discovery Rule, there are a few other instances in which the statute of limitations may be extended
- In most states, if the potential defendant left the state after the incident, then the clock essentially stops while the potential defendant is out of the state.
So, if someone committed an injury to you and then fled the state for two years, then the time period that you have to file a personal injury lawsuit against that individual is increased by two years.
However, this type of exception is sometimes difficult to prove.
Another exception when almost all states will extend the statute of limitations is when the injured party is:
- a minor
- mentally ill
There may be other exceptions, and your state may not recognize some of the above, so always check with your lawyer.
In addition, there may be cases when the statute of limitations is actually shortened.
One example is when you wish to bring an accident or injury claim against a Texas government entity or a state employee who was working in an official capacity, you only have six months to file your claim.
FreeAdvice Legal maintains a list of personal injury statute of limitations by state, including the legal code and link to the state’s documentation.
The purpose of the statute of limitations
The purpose of a statute of limitations is to protect the defendants and facilitate a resolution to personal injury lawsuits, like those involving car accidents or wrongful death, within a reasonable amount of time.
The reasoning behind imposing statutes of limitations on such cases is that plaintiffs who have valid cases will generally pursue them with reasonable diligence, and defendants could end up losing significant pieces of evidence to disprove false claims after long periods of time.
Personal injury claims that have laid dormant for a long period of time are generally believed to have more cruel intentions than justice-seeking ones.
People who believe that their injuries were caused as a result of the negligence of another party can seek compensation by filing a personal injury lawsuit. However, in order to avoid any complications with your case, it's advisable to ensure that you consult an attorney who can assist you with determining what the appropriate statute of limitations for your particular case is.
Each state sets its own laws governing how long plaintiffs have to file personal injury lawsuits, so ensuring that you understand how long you have to file your claim can help prevent any unnecessary issues from arising concerning your claim later on down the road.
- FreeAdvice Legal maintains a list of personal injury statute of limitations by state, including the legal code and link to the state’s documentation
- How long does a personal injury claim take?
- Statute of Limitations in Texas - How long do I have to bring a lawsuit?
See our guide Choosing a personal injury attorney.