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Statute of Limitations on Personal Injury Claims

Law Offices of Francisco G. Medina Jan. 17, 2024

Understanding the statute of limitations on personal injury claims is crucial for anyone seeking legal redress after an injury. For individuals who have been injured in a car accident, slip and fall accident, or another instance of negligence, it's important that they understand this critical legal concept, which governs the time frame within which a person or party can file a lawsuit after suffering a personal injury.

The rules can vary based on the nature of the injury and the jurisdiction in which it occurred, making it essential to grasp this concept before you take legal action. 

The Time Limit in Texas

The statute of limitations is a law that sets a deadline for filing a lawsuit. In Texas, the statute of limitations for most personal injury cases is two years. This means that from the date of your injury, you have a two-year window to file a claim. 

The type of injury can sometimes affect this time limit. For instance, injuries resulting from car accidents, slip and fall incidents, or dog bites all generally adhere to the two-year rule. However, there can be exceptions, so it's crucial to consult with an attorney to understand your specific case. Here are some of the exceptions that may apply to your case:

  1. Minors and Legally Disabled Persons: Under Texas law, when an injured person is deemed to be "under a legal disability," the statute of limitations can be adjusted. This applies to individuals who are either under 18 years old or considered to be of "unsound mind" at the time of the incident causing their injuries. In such cases, the deadline is temporarily suspended until the legal disability period ends. The statute of limitations will then come into effect once the injured person reaches the age of 18 or recovers mentally.

  2. Wrongful Death: An exception to the statute applies when the victim dies from their injuries. In these cases, the statute of limitations extends to 2 years from the date of death, allowing survivors to file a wrongful death claim. For instance, if a loved one dies 6 months after an accident due to injuries sustained, the statute begins 2 years after the date of death, not the incident.

  3. Defendant Left the State: If the defendant leaves Texas after the accident and before the lawsuit is filed, the deadline is paused until the date of their return.

  4. Asbestos and Silica: Claims for personal injuries or death due to asbestosis or silica-related illnesses have an extended statute of limitations. The two-year limit starts after the exposed person's death or when a required report is served to the defendant.

  5. Claims Against First-Party Auto Insurance: In Texas, the deadline for filing a claim against your own automobile insurance company is between two and four years. This includes underinsured motorist, uninsured motorist, and personal injury protection claims. These suits are based on a written contract.

Why Does the Statute of Limitations Exist? 

The statute of limitations exists primarily to ensure fairness and efficiency in the judicial process. As time passes, evidence may get lost or deteriorate, memories may fade, and witnesses might become unavailable or their testimonies less reliable. This could disadvantage the defendant and render the legal process unfair. Therefore, the statute of limitations helps maintain the integrity of evidence, promotes accuracy in the legal proceedings, and incentivizes plaintiffs to pursue their claims diligently.

It also provides a sense of closure and legal certainty after a designated period, preventing the indefinite threat of litigation. 

I’ve Missed the Filing Deadline. Now What? 

If you miss the deadline to file your claim, the court will most likely dismiss your case. This can significantly impact your ability to receive compensation for your injuries. It can also affect your negotiation power if you were hoping to settle out of court. 

We understand that life can get busy, and before you know it, that two-year window has closed. That's why we urge you to reach out to us as soon as possible after your injury. We're here to help guide you through the process and ensure you don't miss any important deadlines. 

Even though missing the filing deadline for a personal injury claim can be a setback, it doesn't necessarily mean the end of your pursuit for justice. Courts generally dismiss claims filed after the statute of limitations, yet there are certain exceptions to this rule: first, if the defendant left the state of texas for a period fo time after the incident, and the discovery rule.  

The Discovery Rule in Personal Injury Cases 

The discovery rule is an important exception to the standard statute of limitations in personal injury cases. Essentially, this rule states that the "clock" for the statute of limitations begins ticking not at the date of the injury itself, but when the injured party discovered or could have reasonably discovered the injury. This rule is particularly relevant in cases where the injury is not immediately apparent, such as medical malpractice or exposure to harmful substances. 

For instance, if a doctor made a surgical error that only became apparent years later, the discovery rule would allow the victim to still file a lawsuit. The two-year time limit would start from the moment they became aware of the injury, not the date the surgery took place.  

Despite these options, it's crucial to note that these exceptions are not a guarantee and depend heavily on the specifics of your case. Always consult a knowledgeable personal injury attorney to assess your situation and understand the best plan of action. 

Taking the Next Steps in Your Personal Injury Claim 

If you believe you have a personal injury claim, it is crucial to act promptly. Reach out to a trusted legal professional who can guide you through the process. They can help you understand your rights, gather necessary evidence, and determine the best course of action. This can include negotiating with insurance companies or taking your case to court if necessary. Keep all medical documents and receipts for any related expenses; these will be essential when proving your case.  

How a Personal Injury Attorney Can Help 

A personal injury attorney serves as a crucial ally during your recovery process. They possess a deep understanding of the law and can effectively navigate the legal system on your behalf. Their knowledge and experience enable them to evaluate the strength of your case, estimate the potential compensation, and devise a strategic approach to achieve the best possible outcome. 

An attorney will guide you through every step, ensuring all paperwork is correctly filed, deadlines are met, and your rights are protected. They'll gather necessary evidence, handle communications with insurance companies, and prevent you from accepting a settlement that is less than what you deserve. If your case goes to trial, your attorney will represent you in court, advocating for your interests and working towards obtaining the maximum compensation for your injuries.  

Remember, your lawyer is there to help you. It's their mission to ease your stress, answer all your questions, and help you regain control over your life after a personal injury. 

The Right Support for Your Personal Injury Claim 

When dealing with a personal injury claim, time is of the essence. Don't let the statute of limitations run out on your chance to seek justice. At the Law Offices of Francisco G. Medina, we're committed to providing our clients with the advice and representation they need. 

Don't hesitate to reach out to us. We serve clients throughout Houston, Fort Bend County, Montgomery County, and Galveston. Let us help you navigate the complexities of your personal injury claim and fight for the compensation you deserve.