Understanding the Statute of Limitations and Your Personal Injury Case

If you plan to sue someone due to an injury or accident, you need to understand New York’s statute of limitations and how it affects your personal injury case.

If you don’t file your lawsuit within the statute of limitations that applies to your personal injury case, you will be permanently barred from recovering damages.

Continue reading to learn more about the statute of limitations.

What is a Statute of Limitations for a Personal Injury Claim?

Statutes of limitations apply in civil and criminal cases. It is a specific time limit for filing claims or legal actions. If you do not file a claim before the deadline, you lose your right to pursue a claim through the courts.

In other words, injured persons who do not file a lawsuit before the statute of limitations expires will not receive compensation for their injuries and damages. This means that the at-fault party is under no legal obligation to pay for the victim’s medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages. 

Why Does New York Have a Statute of Limitations?

Limiting the amount of time to file personal injury lawsuits protects the public interest. 

Reasons why New York has a statute of limitations limiting time for injured parties to file lawsuits include:

  • Deadlines for filing lawsuits prevents people from using the threat of litigation to intimidate a party indefinitely 
  • It encourages accident victims to file prompt claims after sustaining injuries
  • It keeps cases moving efficiently through the courts instead of creating backlogs of old cases
  • It ensures that the defendant has access to evidence to defend against the charges (evidence may disappear with time, and memories of details may be questionable)

Setting deadlines for claims may also prevent individuals from filing lawsuits for injuries that did not significantly impact their life. For example, if there was no deadline, someone might decide to file a car accident lawsuit years after the crash. The person filed the lawsuit because they suddenly needed money instead of filing the lawsuit because they sustained actual damages and significant injuries. 

What are the Statutes of Limitations in New York for Personal Injury Cases?

The deadline for filing personal injury lawsuits varies by state and type of injury. For most personal injury cases in New York, the statute of limitations is three years from the date of the injury. 

The three-year deadline applies to many types of injury claims, including claims involving:

  • Car accidents
  • Dog bites
  • Product liability
  • Slip and fall accidents 
  • Premises liability claims
  • Commercial truck accidents
  • Construction accidents
  • Pedestrian accidents
  • Bicyclist accidents

However, the deadline for filing medical malpractice claims is two years and six months from the date of malpractice or the date of the last continuous treatment for the same illness or injury that gave rise to the claim. 

Civil claims for assault have a one-year deadline for filing lawsuits.

Wrongful death claims have a different deadline, too. Surviving family members have two years from the date of death to file wrongful death lawsuits.

Are There Different Deadlines for Suing the Government in New York?

Generally, sovereign immunity protects government entities from being sued without their consent. New York has waived its right to sovereign immunity for personal injury claims. However, the rules for suing the government are different.

An injured party has just 90 days from the date of injury to file a notice of claim with the appropriate government entity or agency. Failing to file the notice of claim could result in an automatic dismissal of the claim. The Court of Claims Act contains specific instructions for filing notices of claims. 

If your accident involves a government agency, public-benefit corporation, government employee, or government vehicle, it is best to call a New York City personal injury attorney immediately. In addition to shorter deadlines for filing claims, personal injury cases involving the government are complex and have different rules.

What Does it Mean to “Toll” the Statute of Limitations?

To “toll” the statute of limitations means stopping or pausing the time period to file lawsuits. Certain circumstances toll the statute of limitations for filing personal injury lawsuits in New York. 

The statute of limitations is tolled for minors. Therefore, the time to file a lawsuit does not begin until the child reaches 18 years of age. Likewise, deadlines for filing injury lawsuits for mentally incompetent individuals are tolled. In most cases, a legal guardian steps in to file a lawsuit for a child or mentally incompetent individual. 

The statute of limitations may be tolled when the defendant is in prison or leaves the state. If a party tries to conceal their identity to prevent a personal injury lawsuit, the court may order the statute of limitations to be tolled.

Never assume that there is a pause on the deadline to file a personal injury lawsuit in New York. You should always seek prompt legal advice from an attorney. In most situations, the deadlines for filing lawsuits cannot be extended.

What is the Discovery Rule?

Some states have a discovery rule that can toll the statute of limitations for specific actions. For example, New York has a limited discovery rule for some medical malpractice claims. 

The discovery rule starts the statute of limitations from the date the patient knew or should have reasonably discovered the medical malpractice. Tolling the statute of limitations under the discovery rule prevents medical professionals from avoiding liability when a patient might not have been immediately aware that they were the victim of medical negligence. 

For example, claims related to leaving foreign objects inside a patient’s body may be filed within one year of discovering the foreign object or the date the patient should have reasonably discovered the object, whichever is earlier. 

Claims involving failure to diagnose cancer have a longer deadline for filing lawsuits (Lavern’s Law). The patient has 2.5 years from the date they discover the negligent act or omission, but no longer than seven years from the date of the negligent act or last day of continuous treatment for the condition. 

Contact a New York City Personal Injury Lawyer for a Free Consultation 

Waiting to seek legal advice after an injury or accident could hurt your case. A New York City personal injury attorney will discuss your legal options and how to maximize the amount you’ll receive from a personal injury settlement. They’ll also keep track of all applicable filing deadlines to ensure that your lawsuit is timely filed.