A statute of limitations is a law that defines the maximum amount of time parties involved have to initiate legal action from the date of an alleged civil or criminal offense.
The purpose of these statutes is to protect defendants. There are three main reasons behind statutes of limitations:
- A plaintiff with a valid cause of action should pursue it with reasonable diligence
- By the time a stale claim is litigated, a defendant might have lost evidence necessary to disprove the claim
- Litigation of a long-dormant claim may result in more cruelty than justice
The time limit varies by the offense and regional jurisdiction. For most civil cases, such as personal injury claims, the statute of limitations falls within one to ten years, with two to three years being the most common. In this post, we’ll discuss the statute of limitations for personal injury and auto cases in Texas and the considerations for victims.
What is the Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury and Car Accident Claims in Texas?
Under Texas’ statute of limitations, many accident victims only have two years from the date of the incident to bring the suit in a personal injury claim. If they fail to do so within the two-year window then they will typically lose their right to recover damages suffered as a result of the injury.
Texas’ statute of limitations begins to run once one knows or should have reasonably known about the harm that has been done. In most auto injury cases, such as car accidents, truck accidents, and pedestrian accidents, it goes without saying that victims will immediately know that harm has been done.
However, the statute does not begin to run until the day after the incident. For example, this means that if one was in an accident on January 1st, 2020 then their time to bring suit does not expire until January 2nd of 2022. The weekend can also slightly impact the deadline; if the day that the statute would run falls on a Saturday then the plaintiff would have until the following Monday to file suit.
Exceptions to a Statute of Limitations
If you file a personal injury lawsuit after the statute of limitations, it’s likely that your case will be dismissed. However, there are a few exceptions that affect the length of the statute, including:
- The injured party is a minor or of unsound mind – In these instances, the statute of limitation’s “clock” won’t start running until the injured party turns 18 or becomes mentally competent.
- The defendant left the state before a lawsuit can be filed – If a defendant leaves the state before a plaintiff can begin legal proceedings, the period of time that the defendant is out of the state will not be counted towards the two-year time limit.
Do I Have to Name a Defendant Before the Statute of Limitations Expires?
When a personal injury lawyer files your suit then it may, depending on the nature of the case, be necessary to name “Doe” defendants. These are parties whom you believe to be partially responsible for the accident but you may not yet know who they are. When the identity of such parties is learned then they may be substituted into the lawsuit in place of the “Doe” defendants after the statute of limitations to sue such parties has passed. If, however, “Doe” defendants are not named in the initial suit then other parties may not be added after the statute of limitations. In cases that involve multiple defendants, this can be a serious issue.
The Importance of Hiring an Attorney After an Injury
In Texas, victims typically have two years to file a lawsuit for personal injury claims. Failing to do so can result in case dismissal. It is important for victims to understand how this two-year limit works, as such a time frame can pass faster than you may realize. For these reasons, it is important that you contact a personal injury lawyer immediately after having been in an accident.