Statute of Limitations: Time Limit to File a Personal Injury Claim

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If you have suffered a personal injury due to an automobile accident, medical malpractice, unsafe working conditions or another cause, the law limits the time in which you have to file a personal injury lawsuit.  Failure to timely and properly file suit within the applicable limitation period may forever bar your claim.  Each state has a different set of laws, which mandate that a suit be filed within a specific time period.  This is known as the statute of limitations and can vary from one to six years.  The deadlines vary depending on the type of claim, the state in which the claim is filed, and whether the claim is filed in state or federal court.  The only exception to this is when the plaintiff is filing for damages against the government.  When that’s the case, the statute of limitations is often reduced to thirty days and up to one year. 

Typically, the statute of limitations begins on the day the injury occurred.  Sometimes, this doesn’t apply in certain cases where pharmaceutical manufacturers are held liable for injuries or even deaths attributed to their products.  These cases can take several years in which to identify the link between a prescription medication and the sustained injury.  For example, a recent case involved the manufacturers of a prescribed weight loss medication, which caused serious cardiac complications.  This didn’t come to light until several years later when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requested its withdrawal from the market.  This particular case racked up legal damages totaling over $13 million dollars.

States and their Statutes of Limitations

In making a determination as to which statute of limitations will control a civil action, the type of “cause of action” that the claim is pursued will be critical.  For example, in the state of California, the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit is two years, but the statute limits lawsuits involving libel or slander to just one year.  Furthermore, some states have special rules regarding minors and many states require victims to provide advance notice of their intent to file suit.  If a minor is injured, the countdown for pressing charges does not begin until the child turn 18. Below you will find the standard statue of limitations for each state:

Statute of Limitations for all Fifty States

A-C

  • Alabama - Two Years
  • Alaska - Two Years
  • Arizona - Two Years, One Year for Libel and Slander Cases
  • Arkansas - Three Years, Two Years Medical Malpractice, One Year slander
  • California - Two Years, One Year for Libel and Slander
  • Colorado - Two Years
  • Connecticut - Two Years

D-L

  • Delaware - Two Years
  • Florida - Four Years, Two Years Medical Malpractice and Libel and Slander
  • Georgia - Two Years, One Year for Libel and Slander
  • Hawaii - Two Years
  • Idaho - Two Years
  • Illinois - Two Years, One Year for Cases of Defamation
  • Indiana - Two Years
  • Iowa - Two Years
  • Kansas - Two Years, One Year Libel and Slander
  • Kentucky - One Year
  • Louisiana - One Year

M-N

  • Maine - Six Years, Two Years for Libel and Slander
  • Maryland - Three Years, One Year for Libel and Slander
  • Massachusetts - Three Years
  • Michigan - Three Years, One Year for Libel and Slander
  • Minnesota - Two Years
  • Mississippi - Three Years, Two Years for Medical Malpractice, One Year for Libel and Slander
  • Missouri - Five Years, Two Years for Libel and Slander, Two Years malpractice
  • Montana - Three Years, Two Years for Libel and Slander
  • North Carolina - Three Years, One Year for Libel and Slander, Two Years for Wrongful Death
  • North Dakota - Six Years, Two Years for Wrongful Death, and Libel and Slander
  • Nebraska - Four Years, One Year for Libel and Slander, Two Years for Medical Malpractice
  • Nevada - Two Years
  • New Hampshire - Three Years
  • New Jersey - Two Years, One Year for Libel and Slander
  • New Mexico - Three Years
  • New York - Three Years, Two.Five Years malpractice, One Year for Libel and Slander

O-T

  • Ohio - Two Years
  • Oklahoma - Two Years, One Year for Libel and Slander
  • Oregon - Two Years, One Year for Libel and Slander
  • Pennsylvania - Two Years, One Year for Libel and Slander
  • Rhode Island - Three Years, One Year for Libel and Slander
  • South Carolina - Three Years, Two Years for Libel and Slander
  • South Dakota - Three Years, Two Years for Libel and Slander, and Medical Malpractice Cases
  • Tennessee - One Year, Six months for Libel and Slander
  • Texas - Two Years, One Year for Libel and Slander

U-W

  • Utah - Four Years, Two Years Wrongful Death, One Year for Libel and Slander
  • Vermont - Three Years
  • Virginia - Two Years, One Year for Libel and Slander
  • Washington - Three Years, One Year for Libel and Slander
  • Washington D.C - Three Years, One Year Libel and Slander
  • West Virginia - Two Years
  • Wisconsin - Three Years, Two Years for Libel and Slander
  • Wyoming - Four Years, One Year for Libel and Slander

Discovery of Harm Rule

The time period for the statute of limitations does not start to run until the moment when the person filing the suit knew that he or she had suffered harm.  For example, in the case of medical malpractice, if a surgeon had made a mistake, which wasn’t discovered until weeks, months or years later, this lack of knowledge could not be called unreasonable under the circumstances.  Quite often, the statute of limitations would not begin until the day the patient discovered the surgeon’s mistake.  Keep in mind; the delay in discovery must be one that is considered reasonable.  If the patient experienced complications post-surgery, and refused to seek medical treatment for several years, his or her lawsuit may very well be barred by the statute of limitations.

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