How Long Do I Have to File a Personal Injury Case?

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Statute of limitations refers to laws setting legal deadlines in certain types of legal actions. Often, the time limitation is determined by an event, such as when an injury has occurred and dictates how long an individual has to initiate a lawsuit. Statutes of limitations vary from state to state, but typically in personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits, there is a statute of limitations ranging from two to three years from the date of injury or death. However, the statute of limitations may be extended in some cases, such as when the injury occurred to a minor. In other cases, it is necessary for time to be allocated to discover the ramifications and severity of injuries. Minor and moderate injuries such as from slips and falls, animal bites, or auto accidents may cause pain to linger weeks after the accident and may impact your life in various ways beyond what was initially anticipated. Severe injuries may require ongoing care that has no definitive end in sight.

When making a legal claim for the injuries of yourself or a loved one, it is common to wonder how much compensation to demand, especially if the injured party is still recovering or requires continuous care. Therefore, it is essential to know your rights and how long you will have to file a personal injury claim.

When Should You File an Injury Claim?

If you or a loved one is receiving treatment for injuries, it is not necessary to wait to begin the claim process. It is a good idea to get the claims process started as soon as possible, whether a personal injury lawsuit or an insurance claim. This is due to the fact that if the matter needs to go to court, deadlines will have to be complied with. Getting a claim initiated is not the same as resolving a case, and case resolution should be deferred until a clear understanding of the impact and extent of the damages are understood.

Time Limit to File Your Case in Court

In every lawsuit, there will be a state law that sets the deadline for getting the case filed. This law is called a statute of limitations, and every different kind of case will have a different deadline. You should have this deadline or statute of limitations in mind if you need to file a lawsuit, even if you are currently just involved with an insurance claim.

“Maximum Medical Improvement” and Settlement

If you are offered a settlement from an insurance adjuster or the defendant after an injury, you must determine if you have reached maximum medical improvement (MMI). Maximum medical improvement means that you have healed to the fullest extent possible from the injuries that you have sustained. Alternatively, suppose you and your attorney have determined the total value of your damages in reference to the future and/or ongoing medical expenses and financial impact stemming from your injuries. In that case, this figure will aid in determining an appropriate settlement figure.

Keep in mind that there is no harm in starting the claims process before reaching a figure or obtaining MMI, but a clear picture of the full extent of your damages, including future damages, should be obtained before resolving your claim. It may be beneficial to discuss the nuances of your case with an experienced personal injury attorney before making any impactful and potentially detrimental decisions regarding your right to recover from damages.

Statute of Limitation Types

It is essential to understand that there is no single set statute of limitations. Instead, statutes of limitations vary from state to state and from statute to statute. In addition, some statutes have exceptions that may shorten or extend legal deadlines by which claims must be submitted.

The statute of limitations for civil cases will generally vary from the type of case, although some states have a general statute of limitations for civil cases. Some states may have different laws that address specific types of injury. Common types of civil cases include:

  • Assault
  • Battery
  • Breach of Contract
  • Damage to Real Property
  • Emotional Distress
  • Medical Malpractice
  • Negligence
  • Sexual Conduct
  • Slip and Fall Accidents

Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Statutes

Follow this link to view each state’s statutes of limitations periods for civil claims related to personal injury and wrongful death.

It is also important to note that:

  • Personal injury statutes of limitations typically begin from the date the injury occurred, although in some states, it may extend to when the injury was discovered.
  • Some states have specific statutes for specific injuries such as child abuse, sexual assault, and other forms of negligence or assault.
  • Wrongful death statutes are typically measured from the date of the victim’s death.

Tolling: Extending the Deadline to File

In some instances, state and federal codes will allow a statute of limitations to be extended due to extenuating circumstances. When an extension is granted, it is known as tolling. Tolling limitations will differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Common reasons for tolling include:

  • When the victim is a minor
  • When the plaintiff is a victim of fraud
  • When an injury is not discovered until a later date, such as in the event of cancer or mesothelioma
  • When the victim has a mental disability or is medically incompetent
  • When the defendant has left the state or country

Equitable Tolling

If no statute allows tolling, judges may extend the filing deadlines through a common-law practice called equitable tolling. The specific situations that allow for equitable tolling will vary drastically from state to state, and some states will not enable equitable tolling. As a result, deadlines for filing may be extended or limited in various ways. If you have any questions surrounding a statute of limitations or filing a claim, speak to an experienced attorney to learn more about the laws in your state.

Civil Lawsuits for Criminal Conduct

In some states, statutes will allow extended limitation periods for lawsuits that have resulted from criminal conduct such as wrongful death due to homicide, sexual offense against a minor, or other sex crimes. These laws will vary significantly from state to state.

Contact Tatum & Atkinson: The Heavy Hitters About Your Case

Discuss your case with an experienced attorney from Tatum & Atkinson: The Heavy Hitters who understands the laws surrounding the nuances of your case. Give us a call at 800-LAW-0804 to receive a free case evaluation or fill out this online form.