What Is the Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury?

If you find yourself injured after an accident, you might wonder how long you have to file a lawsuit against the person who caused it. Maybe you’re still in the hospital or undergoing long-term medical treatment and don’t want to miss out on compensation for your full plan of care. But be aware, there’s a statute of limitations set on personal injury, with each state setting a different date to file from the time of the accident.

Deadlines & Insurance

Most personal injury cases are settled through insurance claims without having to resort to a full lawsuit. While most insurance claims don’t have a time limit for filing, in nearly all cases you need to file an insurance claim before you can file a lawsuit. This means you need to give yourself plenty of time to file if settlement negotiations break down and your only course of action is to take the defendant to court.

Deadlines & MMI

If the deadline in your jurisdiction runs out, you will probably lose the right to bring a lawsuit to court. In some states, this limit is as short as a year from the date of your accident, with a few states going as long as six. The good news is that you can get the process started while still getting treatment. If you live in a state with a short deadline, but you have not reached full health post-accident – what is called “maximum medical improvement” or MMI – you can still receive compensation for future care. You and your attorney can use your doctor’s plan of care to determine what the future financial impact will be and make a claim for the full compensation you’re owed.

Deadline Exceptions

Like other aspects of personal injury law, some exceptions can extend the statute of limitations when it comes to the filing deadline. These include:

  • You were a minor at the time of the accident
  • The accident caused incapacitation that prevented you from filing
  • The person at fault for the accident fled the state

In some states, there’s an exception to the statute of limitations called the “discovery rule.” That is, rather than the date of your accident, the “clock” on the statute begins when you “discover” the injury. This is the exception used in cases of toxic exposure that doesn’t appear until much later.

The important thing to remember is that your best chance of getting the compensation you deserve is to file early. If you believe you may have a cause for a personal injury lawsuit, set up a consultation with a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.