What are the Statutes of Limitation on Personal Injury Cases?

Photo of clockStatutes of limitations, which can be traced back to Roman times, are an integral part of the legal system in the United States and many other nations.  Every state legislature has passed its own statute of limitations that prescribe the maximum time that you have to initiate litigation from the date of an alleged event. After this specified time period has elapsed, you are no longer able to seek redress through the courts for personal injury or damages.

In other words, if you fail to file a personal injury claim before your state’s statute of limitations expires, you can lose your right to sue for financial compensation.

Statute of Limitations impose deadlines

These laws were passed to encourage resolution of legal proceedings within a reasonable time frame. Some states — such as Missouri — allow up to 5 years to bring a personal injury claim.  Others – like Kentucky and Tennessee – have a one year time limit on pursuing injury actions. Under New Jersey statute § 2A:14-2(a), aggrieved parties have two years from the date of harm to file a personal injury lawsuit. In New York, you have three years after the date of personal injury to take legal action.

If you are ever harmed in any kind of an accident, whether it occurred at work, because of a negligent driver, or on the property of a third party, it’s in your best interest to speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. In most states, the clock starts ticking the moment the injurious event occurs, or when the victim discovers the harm.

Discovery of Harm Rule

When considering the statute of limitations in New York or New Jersey for legal actions, it’s crucial to understand the “discovery of harm” rule. This often plays a key role in malpractice claims wherein patients discover many months (or years) after surgery that their doctor mistakenly implanted the wrong medical device, or misdiagnosed a disease or illness.  In instances where the patient did not experience any troubling symptoms, he or she would have no “reasonable way” of discovering the harm sustained. In these cases, the date of accrual would not likely begin until the actual day when the patient discovered the doctor’s error.

The discovery of harm rule rarely applies to the most common of personal injury claims arising from car accidents or slip and fall injuries, when there is no underlying harm to “discover.”  However, these deadline for filing litigation may apply to some wrongful death cases, as well as product liability claims stemming from pharmaceuticals or defective products.

Statute of Limitations for Minors

Most states have special considerations for minors who suffer injury. In New Jersey, the statute of limitations does not start until the injured party turns 18.  So if a 16-year old resident is injured in a car crash, he or she has until his 20th birthday to sue for damages in NJ. Similarly, New York civil code tolls the statute of limitations for minors until their eighteenth birthday.

It’s worth noting that a minor’s legal guardian or parent can file a personal injury claim on their child’s behalf before they turn 18. There are certain advantages to this strategy, as evidence is still readily accessible and hasn’t spoiled and any witnesses can recall events more easily.

Legal assistance in NJ and New York

If you or someone you love was injured because of another party’s negligence or careless actions, time is of the essence for seeking restitution and justice. As experienced personal injury lawyers serving Rockland County, Bergen County and the greater New York metro area, Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman, P.C. know how to fight for full compensation.

If you have questions about filing a claim, we invite you to contact our law offices today for a free case evaluation. You can reach out via our online contact form, or call toll-free today.

Additional Personal Injury Time Limits Resources

  1. NYCourts.gov, Statutes of Limitation https://www.nycourts.gov/courthelp/GoingToCourt/SOLchart.shtml
  2. Justia, New Jersey Section 2A:14-2 – Actions for injury caused by wrongful act http://law.justia.com/codes/new-jersey/2013/title-2a/section-2a-14-2