The statute of limitations (SOL) is a legal deadline that sets the time limit for filing a lawsuit against the at-fault party for injuries or damages suffered in an accident. The statute of limitations varies depending on the type of injury and the circumstances of the accident, and it is important to understand how it works to protect your legal rights.
In Texas, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims is generally two years from the date of the accident or injury. This means that if you are injured in an accident, you have two years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit against the at-fault party for damages. If you fail to file within the two-year time limit, you may lose your right to pursue a legal claim for damages.
Exceptions to SOL in Texas:
In Texas, there are several exceptions to the statute of limitations for personal injury claims, which may allow an injured party to file a lawsuit after the normal time limit has passed. These exceptions are known as tolling provisions, and they are intended to provide relief in situations where it may be difficult or impossible for an injured party to file a claim within the standard time limit. Here are some of the most common tolling provisions in Texas:
- Minority: If the injured party was a minor at the time of the accident, the statute of limitations is tolled until the minor reaches the age of 18. This means that the injured party has until two years after their 18th birthday to file a claim.
- Mental incapacity: If the injured party was mentally incapacitated at the time of the accident, the statute of limitations is tolled until the individual regains capacity. This means that the injured party may have additional time to file a claim.
- Fraud or concealment: If the at-fault party intentionally conceals information that would have led the injured party to discover the injury, the statute of limitations may be tolled. This can occur when the at-fault party lies or misleads the injured party about the cause of the injury or the existence of a legal claim.
- Delayed discovery: In cases where the injury or damage is not immediately apparent, the statute of limitations may be extended to two years from the date on which the injury or damage was discovered or should have been discovered.
- Military service: If the injured party is on active duty in the military at the time of the accident, the statute of limitations may be tolled until the individual returns from service.
Tolling provisions can be complex and may require the guidance of an experienced personal injury attorney. If you believe that one of these exceptions may apply to your case, it is important to consult with an attorney as soon as possible to protect your legal rights and ensure that you file your claim within the appropriate time limit. The statute of limitations may also vary depending on the type of injury and the circumstances of the accident. For example, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims in Texas is generally two years from the date on which the injury occurred or was discovered, with a maximum of 10 years from the date of the alleged malpractice.
Missing the Deadline for the Statute of Limitations:
If you attempt to file a personal injury lawsuit after more than two years have passed since the underlying accident, the defendant will likely file a “motion to dismiss” and bring this fact to the court’s attention. Unless a rare exception applies, the court will dismiss your case, and you will lose your right to seek damages for your injuries, regardless of their severity or the defendant’s liability.
The personal injury statute of limitations in Texas is critical not only if you intend to pursue a formal lawsuit but also in personal injury settlement negotiations with the defendant and their insurance company. If the other side is aware that the two-year deadline has expired, you will have no bargaining power, and “I’ll see you in court” will be an empty threat.