Pursuing your case in the aftermath of an accident should happen immediately. If you choose to delay, you risk falling victim to an expired statute of limitations.
But what is the statute of limitations on personal injury? It depends on your state, but if you fail to lodge your case in time, you lose the right to sue, regardless of whether you would otherwise win compensation.
With 39.5 million personal injury cases requiring medical treatment annually, you may think your recent accident qualifies for compensation. In this guide, you’ll learn more about the statute of limitations on personal injury claims.
What is the Statute of Limitations on Personal Injury?
The US has no national statute of limitation on personal injury. Instead, every state gets to set its personal injury statute of limitations. Generally, the type of injury or case will determine how long you have to file your claim with the courts. This timeframe ranges from one to six years, with some exceptions that may qualify you for an extension.
For example, California has a two-year statute of limitations, but if the injury is not immediately apparent, you have one year from when you discovered it. On the other hand, Florida has a four-year statute of limitations on injury claims, starting on the day the accident occurred.
However, this is just the standard statute of limitations on injury claims. A different time limit may apply to your situation, depending on the circumstances.
Minor as the Victim
Did your injury occur when you were legally considered a minor? That is one exception that changes the statute of limitations. If you sustained an injury as a minor, the clock begins on your 18th birthday. So, if you have a two-year window in your state, you would have two years after turning 18 to file your personal injury claim.
Domestic violence cases also have exceptions that can change the standard statute of limitations. In California, if a person sues for an injury resulting from domestic violence, there are two rules defining the statute of limitations:
- You must file three years from the last act of violence; or
- Three years after the victim discovered that their injury resulted from domestic violence.
However, this is only standard for some states. Again, states can determine their own rules. For example, Florida’s statute of limitations relating to domestic battery cases depends on the extent of the injuries.
In Florida, the statute of limitations for domestic battery is:
- 1st-Degree Misdemeanor – Two years
- 2nd-Degree Misdemeanor – One year
- 3rd-Degree Misdemeanor – Three years
Why is there a difference in domestic violence cases, though? In the eyes of experts, victims may be unable or unwilling to file a claim for domestic abuse because they feel trapped, endangered, or vulnerable. Providing additional time increases the odds that a victim of domestic violence can pursue their cases in the future.
Sexual Abuse of a Minor
Child sex abuse cases are also eligible for personal injury claims but come with an injury claim statute of limitations. California’s rules on child sexual abuse cases mandate that the statute of limitations can extend to eight years after the victim’s 18th birthday.
Alternatively, the statute of limitations could be three years after an illness or psychological disorder resulting from child sexual abuse after the age of majority.
Injuries due to the Negligence of the Government
Claimants should approach damages caused by the negligence of a government body differently. Firstly, your lawyer must file an administrative claim on your behalf with the government in question before filing a civil suit in court. You must file an administrative claim within six months of the injury. The government will then have up to 45 days to respond. If the claim is denied, you have six months to file a civil suit in court. This statute of limitations extends to two years if the government body fails to respond.
Personal injury lawsuits arising from a felony act also fall under different rules because there are parallel criminal cases to account for. So, how long do you have to sue someone for a personal injury if a felony charge is brought against the defendant?
The standard rule is that you have one year after a criminal judgment to file a civil suit unless protected under an existing statute. Many felonies have extended statutes of limitations lasting up to 10 years. And some states don’t start these clocks until the defendant’s parole has ended, meaning you could have decades to lodge your civil suit.
When Does the Personal Injury Statute of Limitations Time Limits Start?
The personal injury lawsuit statute of limitations depends on the state, but the clock typically begins from the day you sustained the injury.
For example, if you received a severe head injury in Florida on January 1, 2023, you would have until January 1, 2027, to file your case because of the state’s four-year statute of limitations. However, these rules change if you were a minor during the injury.
In some cases, the statute of limitations may only begin from the moment the victim discovers the damage. These cases are exceptionally complicated, and your lawyer must prove when you found the injury to avoid the statute of limitations compromising your case.
Note that the statute of limitation on a personal injury lawsuit only requires you to file the claim before it expires. It has nothing to do with how long it takes to resolve the matter.
The Discovery Rule & Exceptions for Statute of Limitations
Nearly every state has a “Discovery Rule” on the books. The discovery rule is an exception to the state’s standard statute of limitations for personal injury cases.
You can use the discovery rule to extend the filing deadline. However, your injury must only become apparent after the original deadline has passed.
That is a surprisingly common scenario, so let’s look at an example of how this may apply in real life.
For example, let’s say your state has a three-year statute of limitations on personal injury cases. However, your state also has a discovery rule mandating that the statute of limitations doesn’t begin until the day the plaintiff knew or received sufficient notice that they were injured.
Suppose you were exposed to asbestos while working in the construction industry. If you were exposed 20 years ago and were recently diagnosed with mesothelioma, you may decide to visit your doctor.
Your doctor asks whether you came into contact with asbestos as part of your job, and you answer yes because you were responsible for asbestos removal. While the statute of limitations has passed by 17 years, you have only discovered that you were injured now.
The new statute of limitations would be three years after the day you were diagnosed with mesothelioma. That is because your doctor only revealed that your previous employment likely caused your illness after your mesothelioma diagnosis.
As you can see, not every injury is immediately apparent. Other cases where state discovery rules could come into play include product liability and medical malpractice lawsuits.
How to Extend the Statute of Limitation on Personal Injury
The answer to “What is the statute of limitations on personal injury?” is not always straightforward due to many factors.
For example, what if the defendant left the state following an injury and only returned 10 years later? You had no reasonable opportunity to lodge your case because the defendant had already moved.
That would be an example where some states would pause the statute of limitations clock from when the defendant left the state. Once they return to the state, the clock restarts, regardless of how much time has passed.
However, extending the statute of limitations doesn’t apply to most situations. These special rules typically apply in cases where the victim is a minor or suffers from some form of mental disability.
Again, this is something every state can define under its legal codes. There are no universal standards for special lawsuit-filing rules.
Get Support with Oasis Financial
The statute of limitations is crucial in obtaining justice. We strongly recommend filing your case immediately if you already know you sustained an injury due to the actions of another person.
However, even after filing your claim, pursuing justice can take years, especially in complex cases. The bills won’t wait for you to receive compensation, but alternative options exist.
At Oasis Financial, we provide pre-settlement funding to help you cover your expenses until your case reaches its conclusion. With no obligation to pay if you lose, apply now and maximize your personal injury compensation today.
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Oasis provides pre-settlement funding, also known as consumer litigation funding, to its customers through different products depending on their state of residence or cause of action. Many consumers will be provided pre-settlement funding in the form of a purchase agreement, which assigns a portion of the pending proceeds from their legal claim. Other consumers, such as those in CO, IL, MO, SC, WI and some OK residents, will be offered a funding in the form of a pre-settlement loan, sometimes referred to as a lawsuit loan. These transactions have important differences, therefore, consumers should carefully review and be aware of the type of transaction that is offered to them by any funding company.