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Accident & Injury Law
Personal Injury Law - The Basics
Proving Fault
Economic Recovery for Injuries
Time Limits for Bringing a Case
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Accident & Injury Law - Time Limits for Bringing a Case: The "Statute of Limitations"

Under a legal rule known as the "statute of limitations," any lawsuit arising from an accident or injury must be filed within a certain time limit or the injured person's legal claim will be barred and his or her right to sue will be lost forever. Every state has enacted its own statute of limitations, requiring any personal injury suit be filed in court within a set time after the incident or injury. The specific limit prescribed by each state ranges from one year (in Kentucky and Tennessee) to six years (in Maine and North Dakota).

In some states, the type of personal injury claim may also affect the time limit. For example, certain defamation cases and claims involving minors (persons under age 18) may be granted longer time limits, while medical malpractice statutes of limitations may grant shorter time limits. Typically, the statute of limitations in a lawsuit for injuries to a minor does not begin to run until he or she reaches the age of 18. For example, suppose Pat is injured in a car accident on his 17th birthday. In a state that has a two-year statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits, Pat will have three years to file suit for injuries suffered in that accident.

The "Discovery of Harm" Rule

While a statute of limitations may declare that a personal injury lawsuit must be filed within a certain amount of time after an accident or injury, that time period usually does not begin to run until the moment when the person filing suit knew (or should reasonably have known) that they had suffered harm, and the nature of that harm. An example of this "discovery of harm" rule is a medical malpractice claim in which a surgeon mistakenly left a temporary bandage in the abdomen of a patient, but the error was not discovered until years later, during another surgical procedure. In such a case, the patient had no reason to know of what happened, and this lack of knowledge could not be called unreasonable under the circumstances. Most likely, the statute of limitations would not begin to run until the day on which the first surgeon's mistake was "discovered" by the patient, rather than from the day on which the first surgeon actually made the mistake.

Statute of

State Law

2 years
Ala. Code Sec. 6-2-38
2 years
Alaska Stat. Sec. 9.10.070
2 years
Ariz. Rev. Stat. Sec. 12-542
2 years
Ark. Stat. Sec. 16-114-203
2 years
Cal. Code of Civ. Proc. Sec. 335.1
2 years
Colo. Rev. Stat. Sec. 13-80-102
2 years
Conn. Gen. State. Sec. 52-584
2 years
Del. Code Ann. Title 10, Sec. 8119
District of Columbia (D.C.)
3 years
D.C. Code Ann. Sec. 12-301
4 years
Fla. Stat. Ann. Sec. 95.11
2 years
Ga. Code Ann. Sec. 9-3-33
2 years
Haw. Rev. Stat. Sec. 657.7
2 years
Idaho Code Sec. 5-219
2 years
Ill. Ann. State. Ch. 5, Sec. 13-202
2 years
Ind. Code Ann. Sec. 34-11-2-4
2 years
Iowa Code Ann. Sec. 614.1
2 years
Kan. Stat. Ann. Sec. 60-513
1 year
Ky. Rev. Stat. Sec. 413.140
1 year
La. Civ. Code Ann. Art. 3492
6 years
Maine Rev. Stat. Ann. Art. 14, Sec. 752
3 years
Md. Ann. Code Sec. 5-101
3 years
Mass. Gen. Laws, Art. 260, Secs. 2A, 4
3 years
Mich. Comp Laws Sec. 600.5805(9)
2 years
Minn. Stat. Ann. Sec. 541.05, 541.07
3 years
Miss. Code Ann. Sec. 15-1-49
5 years
Missouri Ann. Stat. Title 35, Sec. 516.120
3 years
Mont. Code Ann. Sec. 27-2-204, 27-2-207
4 years
Neb. Rev. Stat. Sec. 25-207
2 years
Nev. Rev. Stat. Sec 11.190
New Hampshire
3 years
N.H. Rev. State. Sec. 508.4
New Jersey
2 years
N.J. Stat. Ann. Sec. 2A:14-2
New Mexico
3 years
N.M. Stat. Ann. Sec. 37-1-8
New York
3 years
N.Y. Civ. Prac. R. Sec. 214
North Carolina
3 years
N.C. Gen. Stat. Sec. 1-52
North Dakota
6 years (2 in wrongful death)
N.D. Cent. Code Sec. 28-01-16, 28-01-18
2 years
Ohio Rev. Code Sec. 2305.10
2 years
Okla. Stat. Ann. Title 12, Sec. 95
2 years
Ore. Rev. Stat. Sec. 12.110
2 years
42 Pa. Con. Stat. Sec. 5524
Rhode Island
3 years
R.I. Gen. Laws Sec. 9-1-14
South Carolina
3 years
S.C. Code Ann. Sec. 15-3-530
South Dakota
3 years
S.D. Comp. Laws Ann. Sec. 15-2-14
1 year
Tenn. Code Ann. Sec. 28-3-104
2 years
Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Sec. 16.003
4 years
Utah Code Ann. Sec. 78-12-28
3 years
Vt. Stat. Ann. Title 12, Sec. 512
2 years
Va. Code Sec. 8.01-243
3 years
Wa. Rev. Code Ann. Sec. 4.16.080
West Virginia
2 years
W. Va. Code Sec. 55-2-12
3 years
Wisc. Stat. Ann. Sec. 893.54
4 years
Wy. Stat. Ann. Sec. 1-3-105