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Understanding the Statute of Limitations and Your Personal Injury Case

Understanding the Statute of Limitations and Your Personal Injury Case

Understanding the Statute of Limitations and Your Personal Injury Case

The majority of personal injury cases in Texas are resolved through settlement negotiations between the parties. However, a small percentage of injury claims cannot be settled by negotiating with the other party. In those cases, the injured party might have to file a personal injury lawsuit to recover compensation for their injuries.

If you sustained an injury caused by another party, you could be entitled to compensation for your economic damages, injuries, and non-economic damages. The amount of time to file a lawsuit is limited by the Texas statute of limitations.

Contact or call FVF Law to discuss your legal rights and options at (512) 982-9328. Don’t delay seeking legal advice about your injury claim. Putting off talking with an Austin personal injury attorney could cause you to lose the ability to file a claim.

What Is a Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Cases?

What Is a Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Cases?

A statute of limitations is a deadline for pursuing legal causes of action. These deadlines apply in civil cases, such as car accident cases, medical malpractice, product liability, and other personal injury claims. There are also statutes of limitations for criminal cases.

The statute of limitations for personal injury cases sets deadlines for accident victims to file lawsuits against the parties who caused their injuries. The length of time to file a lawsuit varies by state and type of case. Each state sets deadlines for cases filed within its jurisdiction.

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What Happens if a Statute of Limitations Expires?

When the statute of limitations expires, the at-fault party has a defense against a lawsuit filed by the injured person. The at-fault party can ask the judge to dismiss the lawsuit because the statute of limitations has expired. Without a legal reason to do otherwise, the judge dismisses the case.

Failing to file a lawsuit before the expiration of the statute of limitations essentially means you give up your chance to pursue a claim in court. The person who injured you might be negligent, and they might be liable for damages under tort law.

However, because you failed to file a lawsuit before time ran out, the courts will not impose a legal duty on the party who caused your injury to compensate you for damages. In other words, the person is “let off the hook” because time ran out on your claim.

Why Does Texas Impose a Statute of Limitations on Personal Injury Claims?

It might seem unfair to let a negligent party get away with causing injuries and damages without forcing them to pay the injured party. However, there are reasons why accident victims are required to file their lawsuits within a specific period.

Reasons for the Texas statute of limitations include:

  • To encourage parties to file legal claims as soon as possible after the claim arises
  • To prevent a party from threatening legal action against another party indefinitely
  • To help preserve evidence from being lost or destroyed
  • To ensure witnesses are available and have a clear memory of the events that took place

Another reason for a statute of limitations is to prevent frivolous lawsuits. For example, a person slips and falls at the grocery store. However, the person does not sustain injuries other than minor aches and pains. Four years later, the person decides to sue the grocery store for damages.

The reason for the lawsuit has nothing to do with being injured. Instead, the person might want money or is angry at the store owner, so they decide to file a lawsuit after four years.

What Are the Statutes of Limitations for Personal Injury Claims in Texas?

Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code Title 2, Subtitle B, Chapter 16 sets the deadlines for filing lawsuits related to personal injuries. The statutes of limitations in common personal injury cases are:

  • Car accident cases generally have a two-year statute of limitations beginning with the accident date
  • Medical malpractice claims also have a two-year statute of limitations for most cases
  • Slip and fall accidents and other premises liability claims must be filed within two years of the accident date
  • Accidents involving pedestrians and bicyclists must also be filed within two years of the accident
  • Dog bite cases and other animal attack claims have a two-year statute of limitations too
  • Workers’ compensation has a one-year deadline for filing for workers’ comp benefits
  • Third-party claims related to workplace accidents have the same filing deadline as the underlying cause of action (i.e., two years for car crashes, product liability, premises liability, etc.)
  • Product liability cases typically have a two-year deadline for filing lawsuits
  • Family members have two years from the date of death to file a wrongful death lawsuit

It is important to note that if a government agency could be liable for an accident claim, the statute of limitations for filing claims is different.

The Texas Tort Claims Act sets the deadline for filing a personal injury lawsuit against the government. The statute requires the injured party to provide notice of their intent to take legal action to the government agency within six months from the injury date.

However, the time to file a claim against the City of Austin is even shorter. You have just 45 days after an injury to file a notice with the City of Austin Law Department. Failing to file a notice of claim with the government entity could result in losing your right to pursue a claim.

Are There Exceptions to the Statutes of Limitations in Texas?

The above deadlines for filing personal injury lawsuits apply in most cases. However, there are exceptions. The facts and circumstances of the case could shorten or lengthen the filing deadline.

As discussed above, suing the government significantly shortens the filing deadline. However, there are situations where the statute of limitations is tolled (paused) and extended. For example, an injured minor has until their 20th birthday to file a lawsuit.

Another example is the Discovery Rule. If a person could not have reasonably discovered their injury, the filing deadline for a personal injury lawsuit might be extended. There are other exceptions in cases involving fraud and a party leaving the state.

Because the statute of limitations can prevent you from receiving compensation for your injuries, it is best to talk with our Austin personal injury lawyers as soon as possible after an accident or injury.

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