One of the many laws you need to know as a claimant during a personal injury claim is the statute of limitations. This is one of the most important laws to know in Texas, as missing your statute of limitations could end your claim before it begins. The courts in Texas obey statutes of limitations strictly, often barring clients who file too late from obtaining any financial recovery. Speak to a Dallas personal injury lawyer for personalized information and advice about your statute of limitations.
A statute of limitations is a type of law you will find in every state. It sets a time limit on filing a claim. Both criminal and civil cases have statutes of limitations. In the criminal courts, statutes of limitations set time limits by which prosecutors must bring charges against a defendant. These time limits vary depending on the alleged crime. In the civil courts, statutes of limitations limit how long an injury party (plaintiff) has to file a claim to damages against a defendant. Civil statutes of limitations vary according to the type of accident.
Statutes of limitations help keep the justice system just. Without a law requiring plaintiffs to file their personal injury claims by a certain time, a plaintiff could feasibly wait as long as he or she wanted to file. This delaying of justice might not be fair for the defendant, who could lose opportunities to defend himself or herself with the loss of evidence over time. Enforcing statutes of limitations keep things moving through the justice system more efficiently by prompting claimants to file as soon as possible. It is important to know your statute of limitations in Texas if you wish to protect your right to bring a claim.
As a claimant in a personal injury case in Texas, your statute of limitations will be two years, in most cases. Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code 16.003(a) gives this statute of limitations. With a few exceptions, a filing party has two years after the day of the accident or injury to bring a civil claim in the State of Texas. This is the same statute of limitations as with property damage claims in Texas. During a wrongful death claim in Texas, a plaintiff must bring a cause of action no later than two years after the date of the injured person’s death.
Some types of civil claims come with four-year deadlines in Texas. For example, a claim for financial losses due to a contract dispute can be brought within four years of the action or inaction that allegedly breached the contract. Breaches of fiduciary duty claims are also subject to a four-year deadline in Texas, as are most debt collection and fraud claims. Standard personal injury lawsuits, however, have two-year statutes of limitations, with some exceptions.
It is important to ask an attorney what your statute of limitations is early on, so you do not accidentally miss your deadline. Some exceptions to the general rule exist; however, the courts will only toll, or extend, a statute of limitations in rare circumstances in Texas. If, for example, you did not discover your injury or illness until a date later than that of the accident, the clock generally will not start ticking until the date of discovery. Other exceptions exist for certain cases with minors (those under 18) and criminal offenses.
The most common exception to the statute of limitations in Texas is the discovery rule. The discovery rule states that if a claim involves delayed symptoms, this can toll the deadline. If a victim did not discover his or her injury immediately, the clock will not start counting down until the date of injury diagnosis or discovery. If the defendant can prove that another reasonable and prudent plaintiff would have discovered the injury sooner, however, this could shorten the deadline. Common injuries with delayed symptoms include traumatic brain injuries and back injuries.
Exceptions to Texas’ statute of limitations exist for claims arising from certain crimes, according to Section 16.0045 of the law. If the claim involves alleged child sexual assault, child sexual abuse, child sex trafficking, prostitution of a child, indecency with a child or other such sex crimes against children, the survivor will have 30 years from the date of the offense to file a civil claim.
Another exception to the general rule is in a case based on exposure to asbestos or silica. For asbestos-related injuries, a victim has two years from the date of the exposed victim’s death or the date the claimant serves on a defendant to file. This exception exists because asbestos exposure typically does not result in discoverable illnesses until years later.
Certain maritime claims (claims involving injuries on the water) also have unique statutes of limitations in Texas. The law provides three years to file from the date of an injury or death that occurs on navigable waters during maritime activity. Finally, the statute of limitations on a first-party insurance claim can range from two years to four years in Texas, depending on the language of the insurance contract.
There are also exceptions that can shorten, rather than extend, Texas’ statute of limitations. If you are bringing a tort claim against a government entity in Texas, for example, you will have less than two years to file paperwork. According to Section 101.101 of the Texas Tort Claims Act, a notice of this type of claim must be brought no later than six months from the date of the accident. If you are injured in an accident with a city bus, for example, you will only have six months to file your initial paperwork against the city government.
There are also special statutes of limitations on personal injury claims that involve children in Texas. Child victims are not of the age of consent (18), and therefore do not have the mental capacity to bring legal claims in the eyes of the law. The law states that they are not mature enough to make legal decisions for themselves. This rule gives child victims two options when filing personal injury lawsuits:
Texas has a statute of repose that caps the right to file a medical malpractice claim at no more than 10 years from the date of the alleged act of malpractice, even with the discovery rule and a minor victim. This means if the minor was injured by medical malpractice, the claim must be brought within 10 years, even if this deadline comes before the plaintiff’s 20th birthday.
If you do not file your personal injury case before Texas’ statute of limitations, you could forfeit the right to obtain financial recovery, even if you have evidence of the defendant’s fault. It is critical not to wait to speak to an attorney. Waiting until the end of your window of time could mean accidentally missing the time limit.
Waiting to file can also reduce the strength of your evidence. For instance, eyewitnesses may not be able to clearly remember what they saw a year after the accident. Act quickly to contact a personal injury attorney and file your paperwork to protect your rights.
Statutes of limitations are complicated. The law in Texas can have exceptions in special circumstances. Always speak to a personal injury lawyer about your deadline to file as soon as possible after an accident in Texas.