Each state has a statute of limitations governing the time limit for filing a personal injury lawsuit. For example, Arizona’s statute of limitations for personal injury claims is two years from the date of the injury, but Maine and North Dakota share a 6-year statute of limitations.
Missing this window of time is one of the top mistakes injured people make. Generally speaking, if you attempt to file a lawsuit after the statute of limitations ends, your case will be dismissed. However, there are exceptions.
Exceptions to a state’s statute of limitations
There are exceptions to the statute of limitations on filing a personal injury claim, but they’re not the kind of exceptions you might think. You can’t get an extension by writing a note to the judge asking for more time because you couldn’t get time off work to file the paperwork. Rather, the exceptions are circumstances in which the “clock” is stopped or begins at a time later than the date of the injury.
1. The delayed discovery rule
The first exception is called the “delayed discovery rule” and is applicable in most states. This exception applies when an injured person only finds out they’ve been injured after the original statute of limitations has passed. For instance, someone exposed to asbestos may not know they’re sick until they’re diagnosed with mesothelioma ten years later. A car accident victim with whiplash may not know they have whiplash for a few days or even weeks.
When this exception is applied, the clock starts at the time the injured person is made aware of their injury and the cause. In the case that someone is diagnosed with mesothelioma ten years after exposure to asbestos, the statute of limitations begins the day their doctor gives the diagnosis.
2. Leaving the state
This is an odd exception, but in most states the clock is paused when an injured person leaves the state for any period of time. For example, say you were injured on January 10, 2017, your state’s statute of limitations is two years, and immediately following your injury you left the state for one year. When you come back after that year it will be as if the clock never started. The statute of limitations will be rolled back by one year, giving you the full two years to file a claim.
3. The injured party is a minor or disabled
States often extend the statute of limitations for minors and disabled people to give them a fair chance at filing a lawsuit. For example, in California the statute of limitations is two years, but a minor injured in a car accident has until their 20th birthday to file a lawsuit.
Another example would be if an eight-year-old is injured by broken glass in a car accident and receives stitches to their face. The statute of limitations won’t begin until they reach the age of 18.
4. The injured party is mentally ill, incarcerated, or insane
The courts also extend the statute of limitations for people who are mentally ill or legally insane. The time limit is also extended when the victim is incarcerated.
Do you know your state’s statute of limitations?
If you’re not aware of your state’s time limits on filing a personal injury claim, do a quick Google search to find out. There’s no reason to avoid pursuing a claim if you’ve been injured. You don’t deserve to be stuck with medical bills, lost wages, and other consequences due to someone else’s negligence.
If you think your injuries aren’t that serious now, they might get worse later on and you’ll be stuck footing the bill. You could accept an insurance company’s settlement offer, but they’re going to lowball your offer, and you’ll spend all your energy playing ping pong for peanuts. Claims adjusters don’t have the authority to engage in limitless negotiations. They’re given a maximum payout for your claim and once that amount is reached, even the best negotiating skills in the world won’t get you more money.
Filing a personal injury claim isn’t difficult. Contact a car accident attorney for a free consultation to find out if you have a case. If you do, you’ll want to get the ball rolling as quickly as possible.