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The Statute of Limitations for Car Accident Claims in Texas

Texas laws regarding time limits for filing personal injury claims can dramatically impact your ability to recover fair compensation. Here is what you need to know about the statute of limitations for personal injury cases in Texas.

What Are Statutes of Limitations?

Statutes of limitations provide a time limit for when certain legal action can be taken. For example, there are statutes of limitations for prosecutors to file charges after certain crimes are committed. There are also time limits for filing personal injury lawsuits, including after car accidents.

These laws create a time limit for taking legal action. If legal action is not taken, such as filing a lawsuit, within the applicable time limit, you can forfeit your right to receive recourse from the courts.

Statutes of limitations are a way to make things fair so that the judicial system can provide reliable results. They exist so that cases are brought while evidence is fresh. As time goes by, memories fade, evidence might be lost, and witnesses may move or pass away. Because of this important public policy, courts are unwilling to hear cases that exceed the statute of limitations.

Statute of Limitations for Car Accidents in Texas

In most cases, the statute of limitations in Texas car accident cases is two years.  This means that you generally have only two years to file a lawsuit after being involved in a car accident. This deadline applies to cases involving personal injury, property damage, and wrongful death. In the event of wrongful death, the deadline is two years from the date of death, which might not be the same as the date of the accident.

Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code section 16.003:

TWO-YEAR LIMITATIONS PERIOD.  (a)  Except as provided by Sections 16.010, 16.0031, and 16.0045, a person must bring suit for trespass for injury to the estate or to the property of another, conversion of personal property, taking or detaining the personal property of another, personal injury, forcible entry and detainer, and forcible detainer not later than two years after the day the cause of action accrues.

(b)  A person must bring suit not later than two years after the day the cause of action accrues in an action for injury resulting in death.  The cause of action accrues on the death of the injured person.

Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations in Texas

However, there are exceptions to the general two-year time limit for car accident cases in Texas. Under these exceptions, you might have more or less time to file a lawsuit. For example, in some cases alleging that the car accident was due to a defective product, the statute of limitations is fifteen years under Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 16.012(b). If the lawsuit is against the government or its employee, you must give the government agency notice within six months of the accident of your claim.

What Is a Tolling of the Statute of Limitations in Texas

There are also times when the statute of limitations is “tolled” or paused, including:

  • The victim is mentally incapacitated – If the victim is mentally incapacitated and cannot take legal action, the statute of limitations is tolled during the period of incapacitation.
  • The victim is a minor – Individuals under the age of 18 cannot take legal action on their own behalf.
  • The defendant leaves the state – If the defendant leaves Texas, the statute of limitations could be paused while they are away.
  • The defendant’s identity is unknown – In situations where the defendant’s identity is unknown, such as a hit-and-run driver, the statute of limitations is paused until their identity can be ascertained.

In these situations, the statute of limitations does not run until the reason for the toll no longer exists, such as when the victim turns 18 or the defendant returns to the state.

An Experienced Attorney Can Help

If you were involved in a car accident, you have a limited amount of time to file a lawsuit. Contact the Austin car accident attorneys at FVF Law to learn more about your situation and protect your rights. You can schedule a free, no-obligation consultation by calling (512) 640-2146.

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Fogelman & Von Flatern is a personal injury law firm that believes it matters why we practice law: to make sure good people in unfair circumstances who want reasonable options are taken seriously, especially by their attorney. We value transparency, compassion, and justice, and we strive to embody that in our practice. At FVF, you can trust that you've got the best people on your case, for the right reasons.

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