Many injured victims settle their personal injury claims through negotiations with the other party. However, some personal injury cases do not settle because of one or more disputes. In those cases, the injured party must file a personal injury lawsuit to pursue damages in a court of law.
Injured parties do not have unlimited time to file a lawsuit. The statute of limitations bars claims after a specific period. If you do not file a lawsuit before time expires, the at-fault party does not have to pay your claim, and they can use the statute of limitations as a defense if you try to file a lawsuit.
When Does a Statute of Limitations Start for a Personal Injury Case?
Typically, the statute of limitations begins in a personal injury case in one of three ways:
- The date of the injury or the accident date;
- The date when the party discovers they are injured; or,
- The date the party knew or should have reasonably known they were injured.
State laws vary regarding statutes of limitations. In many states, the deadline can be “tolled” or paused.
For example, many states pause the statute of limitations when a child is injured. The statute of limitations might begin when the child turns 18 years old. States might toll the statute of limitations if the at-fault party leaves the state.
Calculating the deadline to file a personal injury lawsuit can be complicated. Therefore, allowing an experienced lawyer to do this for you is best so you do not miss the filing deadline.
What Are the Statutes of Limitations for Personal Injury Cases?
Each state enacts laws setting statutes of limitations, including exceptions to those statutes. Therefore, you must research state law to determine the deadline for filing a lawsuit in your state.
For example, the statute of limitations for most personal injury claims in California is two years from the date of injury or one year from the date the injury was discovered. However, there are exceptions.
If your claim involves a government agency, you must file a notice of claim within six months (or one year in some cases) to protect your right to file a lawsuit. Property damage claims have three-year statutes of limitations. The deadline for filing a lawsuit for medical malpractice is one year from when you know or should have known about the injury or three years from the date of the malpractice, whichever date is first.
Any cases arising on March 24, 2023, and after have a two-year deadline. Cases before that date retain the four-year deadline. However, cases based on intentional torts and strict liability continue to have four-year deadlines.
Florida’s statute of limitations for wrongful death and medical malpractice is two years. Personal injury claims filed against Florida government agencies have different deadlines and requirements for filing notices of claim.
Should I File a Lawsuit or Settle My Personal Injury Case?
The decision to accept a settlement offer versus filing a lawsuit depends on many factors. A personal injury lawyer can help you weigh the strengths and weaknesses of your case. If you have procedural issues or your evidence is weak, your attorney might advise you to accept a fair settlement offer instead of going to court.
Your attorney also calculates how much your case is worth based on your economic and non-economic damages. Many factors impact how much your claim is worth. If you do not consult a lawyer, you might accept an amount lower than the value of your damages.
Signing a settlement agreement releases all parties from all claims. Therefore, you cannot file a lawsuit after you sign a settlement agreement. Before giving up your legal rights, talk with a personal injury attorney to ensure you are treated fairly by the insurance company and at-fault party.