Does a Personal Injury Lawsuit Need to be Filed Within a Certain Time?

All personal injury lawsuits need to be filed with the court within a certain amount of time. This period of time is known as the statute of limitations. Each state has within its state’s statutes, statutes of limitations, for various types of legal cases that provide a certain amount of time for a potential plaintiff to file a lawsuit in state court or be forever barred from filing a lawsuit on the basis of that claim. For that reason, it is important to seek the advice of a personal injury lawyer well before the statute of limitations is set to expire on your claim and to file a lawsuit before the statute of limitations bars you from doing so. You can always withdraw your lawsuit at a later time but you cannot bring a lawsuit after the statute of limitations has run.

How Long is the Statute of Limitations in Personal Injury Cases?

The statute of limitations depends on both the type of personal injury case that you are bringing and the state court in which you are filing the claim. The majority of states have personal injury statutes of limitations in the 1-3 year range; however, some states have statutes of limitations that run as long as 4 -6 years.   Many states have shorter statutes of limitations for the personal injuries of libel and slander. Some states also shorten the statute of limitations for wrongful death and medical malpractice cases.

When Does the Statute of Limitations Begin?

In order to understand how long you have to file your lawsuit, you must understand when the statute of limitations begins. In most instances, the statute of limitations runs either from the date of the incident or from the date you knew or should have known that you suffered personal injuries from the incident.

Is the Statute of Limitations Ever Extended?

Most states extend the statute of limitations in certain circumstances. This is known as tolling the statute of limitations. If, for example, the injured party is a minor, the statute of limitations may not begin to run until the minor reaches the age of majority. The statute of limitations may also be tolled, or paused, if the defendant files bankruptcy.

What Happens if My Lawyer Misses the Statute of Limitations Deadline?

If you hired a lawyer before the expiration of the statute of limitations and you authorized the lawyer to file a lawsuit on your behalf then you may have a cause of action for legal malpractice against your lawyer if the lawyer failed to file the lawsuit before the expiration of the statute of limitations.

Statutes of limitations exist to provide certainty to possible defendants. Potential defendants can be secure that they will not be sued if the statute of limitations has run for a particular incident and they can move forward with their personal and business decisions without the uncertainty of the unknown expense of a potential lawsuit.

It is important to understand what the statute of limitations is in your particular state for your particular personal injury so that you can file your lawsuit in a timely manner to preserve your right to recover damages for your injuries.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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