Accidents can happen to anyone at any time. It can be at a workplace that involves machinery, a motor accident on a highway, animal attacks, slip, and fall, etc. Some accidents can happen due to our own negligence.
However, there are some accidents which can happen to us without any fault of ours.
In such a situation, you can consider making a claim for personal damages. Or maybe you are already considering it. In any case, you could be wondering how long you have until you can sue the guilty party.
There is no straightforward answer to this. It varies from 30 days to 10 years depends on a number of factors and we will those in this article.
What are the factors that influence the duration you can sue?
There are different factors that can determine the time limit within which you can claim for compensation. The factors which influence the time you can sue individuals or companies for personal injuries are:
- Laws of the state.
The primary factor dictating the time you have within which you can file your case is the state laws. The Statute of Limitations concerning personal injury lawsuits varies significantly from one state to the other. The time typically begins from the day of the accident.
Majority of the states allow the injured party to sue the defaulter within two and three years. On the other hand, states such as Kentucky, Tennessee, and Louisiana have a deadline of one year. Few states such as Minnesota, Maine, North Dakota, and Missouri have a deadline of five and six years. The state of Oregon has the maximum time limit of ten years for making a personal injury claim.
2. Nature of the accident.
Within the Statute of Limitations, the time limit can vary according to the nature of the accident or cause of injury. This, of course, is subject to different state laws.
- Motor or auto accident –The time limit is three years from the date of the accident. It includes all types of motor accidents such as car accident, motorbikes and other modes of transportation on the road.
- Falling accidents – The time limit is three years from the date of the accident. It includes all accidents involving falling, slipping and tripping.
- Work-related accidents – The time limit is also three years from the date of the accident. It can include falling, motor accidents, assault, and exertion, electrocution, getting hit by object or machinery.
- Injuries due to medical negligence – The time limit is three years from the date of injury or the date from whence the injury came to light.
- Industrial or occupational injuries –The time limit is also three years from the date of diagnosis of the injuries or the date of the diseases coming to light. It can include respiratory diseases, deafness, skin diseases, and other work-related injuries.
- Injuries caused by criminal assault –The time limit is two years from the date of the assault or the act.
3. Age of the injured person.
The age of a victim is a major part of the time limit you have to sue for personal damage.
If you are legally an adult at the time of the accident, the state laws will dictate your deadline. Keep in mind that if your lawsuit is not served with the stipulated time frame, you forever forfeit your claims regarding the accident or cause of the injury.
There is, however, an exception for injuries due to medical negligence and industrial diseases. It is because; some internal damages do not show up immediately after an incorrect diagnosis or exposure to toxic substances. In this case, you can take the date of diagnosis or the date you came to know of the injury as your initial date.
If the injured person was below the legal adult age at the time of the accident, the time frame is different. The time limit set by the state remains the same.
However, the difference is that the deadline for a child starts later. Instead of taking the date of the accident into account, the time limit begins from the day they attain the legal adult age of eighteen. Therefore, a child who had an accident at the age of five can file a lawsuit between the ages of eighteen and twenty-one.
This exceptional rule gives the child’s parents or the guardian two choices. They can either claim the compensation immediately after the accident and keep it in the court’s custody until the child becomes eighteen. Or they can allow the child to reach the legal age and then decide for him or herself to sue for damages.
Here, it is noteworthy to point out that that court proceedings must have been set in motion before the age of twenty-one. Otherwise, you give up your claim in the matter.
Injuries sustained at birth, however, must be filed with two years of discovery of the injury.
Is the time limit the same for individuals and government agencies?
Lawsuits involving public entity and the federal government are subject a different set of rules. Therefore, time limitations are also different. Typically, the time limit for claiming personal injury compensation involving the government is six months to two years.
Let’s just say that suing a private citizen is easier. Unlike a specific person or a company that you can target, there is no single person you can catch hold of when it comes to the federal government. Of course, if it is a certain government employee you are suing, that is different.
But remember that you cannot just drag Uncle Sam to court as you would a regular thief. Historically, it was not even allowed due to the sovereign immunity under the FTCA or Federal Tort Claims Act. Although citizens can now sue the government, you may do so after you get a green light signal.
How do you do this? You must first provide them a notice through Standard Form 95. The notice must be given with authority from the particular agency that wronged you and now which you want to sue. The notice will allow the federal officials to assess your claims.
In the notice, you must provide all the factual details of the accident. Also clearly state the amount of compensation you are expecting from the legal transaction. These details will lead the officials to arrive at their own decision. They, of course, will conduct a separate investigation of their own.
After the notice is served and the government does their assessment and investigation, you are intimidated with a reply from the officials. It is then only you can file a lawsuit for your personal injury claims.
Personal injury claims involving the government sometimes get settled without the need for a formal legal proceeding.
Type of injuries you can sue the government for
As with any other claim against a private citizen, lawsuits against the government must be legit and have enough evidence. The common issues for which private citizens go to the court of law with the federal government are:
- Accidents and injuries that involve one or more party or individual directly employed by the government, state or central.
- Accidents related to the premises liability. In such type of cases, it is vital that you prove that the property was unsafe and that the cause of injury was due to it.
- Lawsuits against contractors are against the particular contractor and not the government. Unless it is explicitly stated that the government directly employs the contractor.
How long can you sue the local government?
The deadline for claiming personal injury compensation concerning a local government – county, city or a town, is much shorter. The time period varies greatly from one state to the next.
Some states have laws that demand that you file the lawsuit within the first thirty days of your injury. While others may require you to file the claim within sixty days of the injury. Other states may give you more time and allow you to file your claim within ninety days to one-twenty days.
Remember that these time limits can be different for state agencies and city, town or municipality. Being a part of the federal government, you cannot file a lawsuit straightaway. You need to serve a notice first and then wait for the agencies’ reply.
State agencies typically reply with a period of one month to four months. Take care to ensure that your notice of claim is written strictly according to the guidelines. Otherwise, you may risk the claim getting dismissed by a court of law.