How Long Do I Have To File a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
Personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits have very specific timelines that a victim must abide by in order to recover any damages. The amount of time you have to actually file a lawsuit is governed by a statute of limitations. A statute of limitations requires an injured person to initiate a lawsuit within a certain period of time or else the claim is barred. The statute of limitations for filing a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit in Texas is two years from the date of injury.
The idea behind the statute of limitations is expediency. An injury case is best developed if promptly filed after the incident occurs. In theory, if a lawsuit is promptly filed, the evidence is easier to preserve and witnesses are easier to identify.
Example: If a person is injured in a car accident on April 19, 2016, that person must file a personal injury lawsuit on or before April 19, 2018 (two years from the date of the injury).
There are very few exceptions to the statute of limitations in Texas, and those exceptions are often quite difficult for plaintiffs to prove. For instance, in cases where the date of injury is not clear or where the injury was unknown for a period of time, the statute of limitations can be calculated from the date on which the injury likely could have been discovered. However, this exception is very difficult to prove and, in practice, is difficult to use in the personal injury context.
One exception to the statute of limitations applies minors. In cases where the victim is a minor at the time of the injury, the statute of limitations can be tolled, or extended, to two years after the victim’s 18th birthday. In many instances, though, a parent or guardian will proceed with the minor victim’s lawsuit with approval of the Court.
In practice, two years does not provide injured persons and their personal injury attorneys with a lot of time to investigate an accident, draft a petition, and file a lawsuit. For this reason, it is imperative to seek legal advice promptly. Seek medical attention, document your injuries, and contact an experienced personal injury lawyer that understands the nuances of Texas law and can represent your interests in your time of need.