The statute of limitations sets a time limit for filing a lawsuit after an accident. In Texas, the personal injury statute of limitations is two years, as set by Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code section 16.003. This means you have two years from the date of an injury accident to file a lawsuit against the party responsible for your injuries. If you do not file a lawsuit for your case within this 2-year period, in most cases the courts will refuse to hear your case at all.
You must file your lawsuit within this timeline to avoid losing a chance to receive damages for your injuries or else you right to seek damages expires. Although the statute of limitations in Texas vary by the type of case being presented, generally the 2 year statute applies to most personal injury claims.
What Is a Statute of Limitations?
Generally, a statute of limitation is a type of law that prevents an individual from initiating a lawsuit against another individual, group of people, or entity after a certain period of time has passed. How long you can wait to file a lawsuit in Texas depends on the type of harm caused to you. As it relates to personal injury claims, a statute of limitations is an imposed limit on the duration you have to file a lawsuit after suffering an injury due to the negligence of a third party.
Every state in the United States sets statutory limits on the duration you have to file a lawsuit, and those statues of limitations vary both by state and the type of harm incurred. For example, the statue of limitations for a claim against an individual may vary from a claim against a government entity. This article helps outline the civil statute of limitations in every state in the United States.
What If I File the Injury Lawsuit After the Deadline?
Should you file your lawsuit after the two-year window has lapsed, the court may refuse to hear that claim. This means you will lose a chance to get fair compensation regardless of how strong your case is. After you file the case, the defendant will likely file a motion to dismiss the case based on a lapsed deadline. The court will summarily dismiss the case. However, there are rare exceptions that may entitle you to extra time. Contact your personal injury attorney whenever you are in doubt.
What are the Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Claims in Texas?
The state of Texas has identified several situations that may extend the filing deadline to allow litigants to file their injury claims past the two-year limit.
A few scenarios that may likely lead to the modification of the statute of limitations include:
- Claims Involving Minors and Legally Disabled Persons: Where the injured person is legally termed as “Under a legal disability” as per Texas law, the statute of limitations may be modified. A person who is termed as “under a legal disability” could either be under the age of 18 or of “unsound mind” when the accident or incident that caused them personal injuries occurred. In such a case, the deadline clock is paused until the period of legal disability is over. This means that the statute of limitations will be applied once the injured person turns 18 or becomes mentally healthy.
- Claims Against First-Party Automobile Insurance: In Texas, the deadline for filing the claim against first-party automobile insurance (i.e., your own insurance company) is between two and four years. First-party automobile insurance suits include an underinsured motorist claim, an uninsured motorist claim, or a personal injury protection claim. These lawsuits are filed against your own insurance company according to a written contract.
- Wrongful Death Claims: There is an exception to the statute for cases where the victim dies as a result of their injuries. In these cases, the statute of limitations is extended to 2 years from the date of death to allow survivors to file a wrongful death claim. For example, if a loved one dies 6 months after an accident from injuries sustained in the accident, the statute starts to run 2 years after the date of death instead of the date of incident.
- Inherently Undiscoverable Injuries (i.e., The Discovery Rule): If an injury qualifies as “inherently undiscoverable” within the two-year statute of limitation, by the exercise of due diligence a claim can be subject to the discovery rule. If the court rules that the discovery rule applies, the statute of limitations is suspended until such a time when the injury is discovered in the exercise of due diligence.
- Defendant Leaving the State: If the defendant leaves the state of Texas at some point after the accident and before the lawsuit is filed, the deadline clock will pause until their return. As such, the period of their absences is not counted as part of the two years stated in the statute of limitations.
- Injury Claims Against the State of Texas: The Texas Tort Claims Act reduces the statute of limitations from 2 years down to 6 months for claims made against the State of Texas.
- Maritime Claims: Under Title 28, § 1333 in the United States, the federal courts have jurisdiction over any and all maritime laws and claims, including the right to file a maritime lawsuit in state courts. Maritime accidents are complex and have several statute of limitations that may apply under state and federal law. However, the standard time for filing maritime claims in Texas is three years from when you suffer an injury.
- Asbestos and Silica-Related Claims: Claims for personal injuries or death that result from asbestosis or silica-related illnesses have an extended statute of limitations. The two-year statute limit will not run before the date of the exposed person’s death or and the date that you serve a defendant a required report.
- Claims Involving Sex Crimes Against Adults: Under Texas law, a victim of sex crimes should bring a suit for personal injury not later than five years from the day they suffered harm. The injury should arise due to conduct that infringes specific provisions of Texas Penal Code Chapter 21 and Texas Penal Code Chapter 43 that outlaw sexual assault of an adult, aggrieved sexual assault of an adult, actions that promote the prostitution of an adult, and sexual trafficking of an adult.
Why is There a Statute of Limitations?
When it comes to legal proceedings, timing is of the essence. One crucial component of the legal system is the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations have been part of the United States judiciary system for hundreds of years. The main objective of these rules is to protect a defendants’ rights and enhance the credibility of the court processes. These rules encourage the plaintiffs to pursue their lawsuit with some level of diligence.
The Reasons a Statute of Limitations Exists
- Prevention of Stale Claims: Over time, evidence can deteriorate, witness memories can fade, and individuals can relocate or pass away. The longer someone waits to file a lawsuit or file charges, the more likely it is that crucial evidence will be lost, making it more difficult to prove a case. As a result, the statute of limitations is in place to encourage individuals to investigate and pursue legal action in a timely manner. The statute of limitations also ensures critical evidence is not lost over time. Further, it guarantees the witnesses who will testify in court can draw on more recent and reliable memories.
- Encouragement of Settlements: When a lawsuit is filed quickly after an event occurs, parties are more likely to settle before the case goes to trial. This often results in a quicker resolution and reduces the cost and burden of prolonged litigation. For this reason, the statute of limitations is designed to strike a balance between allowing individuals to pursue legal claims and promoting the efficient resolution of such claims.
- Protection from Fraudulent Claims: Imagine being sued for an event that occurred 20 years ago, and having no way to defend yourself because witnesses have disappeared, evidence is long gone, and memories have faded. Statutes of limitations prevent individuals from asserting fraudulent claims long after their supposed cause of action. In this way, the statute of limitations provides a measure of fairness and protection to defendants. If there were no statute of limitations, someone could theoretically file a lawsuit decades or even centuries after an alleged offense occurred.
- Legal Efficiency: By limiting the timeframe for legal claims, courts can give priority to more recent matters without the burden of devoting resources to older cases. Limiting the period of time in which legal action can be taken can also encourage plaintiffs to build stronger arguments in a shorter period of time, resulting in more well-crafted cases. Further, by requiring that lawsuits be filed within a certain timeframe, it helps to ensure that only meritorious claims are brought to court. This helps to reduce the burden on our legal system and ensures that resources are used appropriately.
Who Came Up With the Idea for a Statute of Limitations?
The concept of a statute of limitations dates back centuries, to the time of Ancient Greece and Rome. In fact, the concept was first introduced by Solon, an Athenian who lived around 600 BC. He believed that disputes should be resolved quickly and fairly, and that a time limit should be placed on when claims could be brought. The idea spread to Rome, where the statute of limitations became a cornerstone of their legal system.
Is the Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Claims Different in Every State in the US?
Yes. In the United States, personal injury claims have statutes of limitations which vary from state to state. Furthermore, the exceptions to the statute of limitations also vary from state-to-state. For example, the statute of limitations in Louisiana for personal injury claims is 1 year (Louisiana Statutes Annotated Code Article 3492), whereas the statute of limitations in Maine is 6 years (Maine Revised Statutes Annotated Title 14, § 752).
For these reasons, it is important for attorneys to understand the statute of limitations that applies in each state and the exceptions to the limitations when making a legal representation. Click here to see the statute of limitations by state in the United States.
Do You Need Legal Help with a Personal Injury Claim?
A personal injury from road crashes, unsafe environments, or abuse can alter your life and those of your loved ones in an unprecedented manner. After a devastating injury, you need help to deal with insurance companies and make an injury claim. At Thomson Law, our personal injury lawyers are committed to fight for you and ensure you receive fair compensation so that you focus your energies on fully recovering.
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