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

An Overview of Personal Injury Claim Time Limits

The time limit for bringing a personal injury or wrongful death case is called the "statute of limitations."

It is essential to file legal action within this period because if you do not, you may forfeit your right to financial compensation for any damages suffered. Statutes of limitations vary from state to state, and they may differ depending on the type of claim. The reason that statutes of limitations exist is that, in general, the best time to come forward with a lawsuit is soon after it happened.

Even if you have plenty of time before your statute of limitations is up, you'll want to contact an attorney sooner rather than later. A personal injury lawyer gathers and preserves evidence for your eventual case, but some evidence is most effective when it's collected as soon as possible. Calling an attorney soon after your accident also ensures that you can focus on your medical recovery while your attorney handles paperwork, investigation, and other legal matters.

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Special Circumstances Affect the Time Limit for Personal Injury Cases

Some circumstances will affect the time limit for filing a personal injury claim:

  • The injured person was a minor at the time of the injury. When a minor is injured, the statute of limitations usually does not start running until they turn 18. For example, a child who was injured at age 5 would have 2 years after their 18th birthday to come forward with a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault party. The laws that apply to cases of this kind will vary depending on the state, so check with your lawyer.
  • The injury or illness was discovered at a later date. There are some cases where an injury or illness is not discovered until long after the incident that caused it has occurred. Cases involving mesothelioma and other forms of cancer are examples of this. A person could have been exposed to asbestos decades ago, and yet is now experiencing symptoms of mesothelioma. They should still have the right to come forward with a case even though their exposure occurred long before the statute of limitations would allow.

In these cases, you may have more time to file. You should ask your attorney if special circumstances exist that may affect the time limit for filing your personal injury claim, as this will vary depending on where you file.

The Statute of Limitations in Texas Is Two Years

In Texas, the statute of limitations for a personal injury and wrongful death claim is two years from the date the cause of action "accrued," which means the date of injury. However, as mentioned above, this period may be longer if the injury could not have been reasonably discovered, or if the victim had a legal disability, such as being a minor. Extensions may apply in those scenarios.

Personal Injury Statutes of Limitations for All 50 States

  • Alabama: 2 years
  • Alaska: 2 years
  • Arizona: 2 years
  • Arkansas: 3 years
  • California: 2 years
  • Colorado: 2 years
  • Connecticut: 2 years
  • Delaware: 2 years
  • Florida: 4 years
  • Georgia: 2 years
  • Hawaii: 2 years
  • Idaho: 2 years
  • Illinois: 2 years
  • Indiana: 2 years
  • Iowa: 2 years
  • Kansas: 2 years
  • Kentucky: 1 year
  • Louisiana: 1 year
  • Maine: 6 years
  • Maryland: 3 years
  • Massachusetts: 3 years
  • Michigan: 3 years
  • Minnesota: 2 years
  • Mississippi: 3 years
  • Missouri: 5 years
  • Montana: 3 years
  • Nebraska: 4 years
  • Nevada: 2 years
  • New Hampshire: 3 years
  • New Jersey: 2 years
  • New Mexico: 3 years
  • New York: 3 years
  • North Carolina: 3 years
  • North Dakota: 6 years
  • Ohio: 2 years
  • Oklahoma: 2 years
  • Oregon: 2 years
  • Pennsylvania: 2 years
  • Rhode Island: 2 years
  • South Carolina: 3 years
  • South Dakota: 3 years
  • Tennessee: 1 year
  • Texas: 2 years
  • Utah: 4 years
  • Vermont: 3 years
  • Virginia: 2 years
  • Washington: 3 years
  • West Virginia: 2 years
  • Wisconsin: 3 years
  • Wyoming: 4 years

The above are general statutes of limitations each state implements for typical personal injury claims. Because each case is different and various circumstances may affect how long you have to file your personal injury claim, it is important to talk to your attorney about what applies to you.

Time Limit for Personal Injury Cases Against the Government

A different time limit applies when a personal injury case is filed against a government entity. Instead of the two-year statute of limitations that most states implement for personal injury cases, a person who files a case against the government may have as little as six months to file a notice of claim. This is not a lot of time at all, and missing that deadline could mean that the victim is unable to file suit at all. The time limit and other laws and procedures relating to cases against the government can be found in the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA).

What Happens If I Miss the Time Limit for My Personal Injury Case?

If you do not file a personal injury claim in time, you could lose your right to take legal action against the person or company that caused you harm. There are the exceptions we discussed above, however, such as an injury involving a minor or a condition that was discovered at a later time than when the negligent or wrongful act occurred. Even if you think you may have missed the time limit to file your case, you should still talk to an attorney to see if an exception may apply and how to proceed.

Ask an Attorney About the Time Limit for Your Personal Injury Case

Each state has its laws for statutes of limitation, so it would be best to defer to them when you wish to file a personal injury claim. In general though, sooner is always better than later. If you're unsure if you have a qualifying case or if your case meets the statute of limitations, speak with an attorney as soon as possible.

For more information on time limits that may apply to your case, contact Arnold & Itkin. Your consultation is free!

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