If you’re thinking about bringing a lawsuit against a third party for a personal injury, yes, you do have a time frame in which to bring your claim. This timeline varies under state and federal law, depends on the type of claim and has different start dates. It’s called the statute of limitations. It isn’t always straightforward, because it has many complex layers. Here are some things to know.
When Does the Statute of Limitations Start on Your Claim?
In most cases, the statute of limitations starts on the date of harm or injury. In a traffic accident, for example, the statute of limitations would begin on the date of the accident. Depending on the laws where the accident occurred, you might have only two years to sue someone for medical expenses and property damage.
The statute of limitations may also start on the date when you first discover the harm. An example of this is finding out you’ve got cancer which could be related to a medication you took. The statute of limitations would start when you discover the harm, the cancer, not when you actually took the medication.
How Long Are Statutes of Limitations?
Most of the time, you have at least one year to bring a claim against the other party. In some cases, you may have longer, but you shouldn’t procrastinate. The big exception to the one-year time limit is government agencies. If the negligent party is a government entity, whether federal, state or local, you may only have up to 60 days to file a lawsuit.
Exceptions and Exemptions
The statute of limitations laws are extremely complicated with many exceptions to the rule. For example, minor children who have a personal injury claim may have up to two years past their 18th birthday to file a lawsuit against the other party. In some cases, you may not be able to bring a claim if it happened years ago, even if you just discovered the harm.
Because the statute of limitations varies so greatly for each case, it’s a good idea to discuss your case with a personal injury lawyer as soon as you can after the accident to protect your interests. Dealing with a personal injury claim quickly also helps you gather evidence when it’s still available and talk to witnesses who haven’t forgotten the incident.