Statute of Limitations Time Period

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

First, you may be wondering: what is the statute of limitations? The statute of limitations is a set time period for a person to bring a claim. You must make a claim within the limitations period. You will not be able to make a claim, however, if you miss the deadline. This article will summarize the limitations period for different types of claims, as well as tolling and late discovery.

Personal Injury.

This is where you are hurt by someone you with or without intent. For example, car accidents, wrongful death, assault, battery, intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress, slip and fall,  and dog bite. For this category, the limitations period is two years from the date of the injury. 

As an example, if you are injured in a car accident on January 1, 2018, then you have until January 1, 2020 to make a claim. If you fail to make a claim by January 1, 2020, you will not be able to make one. This is true for any adult. As explained below, the limitations period is tolled for a minor. 

Medical Malpractice.

Medical malpractice involves a claim against a health care provider. For this category, the limitations period is 1 year from the date you knew or should have known about the injury, or 3 years from the date of the injury, whichever is the earlier date.

Against a Government or Public Entity.

In any claim against a government or public entity, you must file a claim with the entity within 6 months. After that, the entity has 45 days to respond. If the claim is denied, you have 6 months from the date the denial was served or personally delivered to you to file a lawsuit. If the entity never responds, you have 2 years to file a lawsuit. 

Tolling the Statute of Limitations.

A statute of limitations can be “tolled”. Tolling the statute of limitations works to stop or temporarily suspend the limitations period. A statute of limitations can be tolled if the person bringing a suit is:

  1. a minor,
  2. located out of the state,
  3. incapacitated,
  4. legally insane, or
  5. in prison.

For example, your child is injured in an auto accident. Your child is 14 years old. The statute of limitations (generally 2 years in this case) would not begin to run until your child reaches 18 years old. This means that your child will have 6 years or until they reach the age of 20 to file a claim.

Late Discovery Rule.

The law understands that a person with a legal claim might not be aware of such a claim within the statute of limitations period and provides a remedy when the situation arises. If the injury was not discovered right away, and could not have been discovered through reasonable diligence, then the claim can be made 1 year from the date the injury was discovered.  

For example, suppose you are exposed to asbestos through the use of a company’s product in 2010. You do not become aware that you were exposed to asbestos until you developed mesothelioma in 2016. The limitations period for this personal injury is 2 years from the date of the incident, which is 2010-2012. However, because of the late discovery rule, you can still bring a claim in 2016 because you did not become aware of your exposure until 2016. You therefore would have until 2017 to file a claim. 


As you can see, the statute of limitations is very important. It could cut off your ability to assert a legal right and obtain a remedy. In addition, issues like tolling and late discovery can change the general rule. This is why it is important to consult with an attorney who can help you figure out what limitations period applies to your case. 

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