Did you know you have limited time to take legal action in a personal injury case following an accident? While you might feel the effects of your injuries for years – and you may not even know the full impact of that accident for many more years – you do not have an endless amount of time to file a personal injury lawsuit against those who caused you to suffer these injuries.The statute of limitations state law sets a deadline for injury claims.

Even if you already have a lot on your plate with your injuries, you must act quickly to get the legal support you need to manage these difficult situations. Seek help from a qualified personal injury lawyer as soon as possible so you do not miss any critical deadlines.

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What Does the Statute of Limitations Mean?

A statute of limitations is a time limit under the law that sets the window of opportunity when someone can file a lawsuit for a particular type of legal claim. Most legal cases have a statute of limitations, including civil claims and criminal charges.

For personal injury cases, the statute of limitations establishes the deadline for initiating legal action after an injury or accident. This deadline will vary depending on the jurisdiction and the type of claim involved. You must understand and comply with the statute of limitations applicable to your case, as failing to file a lawsuit within the prescribed time frame can result in losing your right to seek compensation.

The statute of limitations typically starts running from the date of the injury or accident. The length of time will depend on the laws of the state where the injury happened. While most statutes of limitations are a couple of years, there are shorter and longer time frames across the United States. There can also be exceptions to the statute of limitations in your case, which can extend the time you have in limited circumstances.

Failing to file a lawsuit within the statute of limitations can result in the court dismissing your case, barring you from pursuing compensation through a lawsuit. Always consult with an attorney promptly to determine the applicable statute of limitations and ensure they file your claim on time if a lawsuit is necessary.

Understanding the statute of limitations for personal injury cases is essential for protecting your legal rights. Never wait to consult a personal injury attorney as soon as possible after an accident or injury. Calling a lawyer now can ensure compliance with the applicable deadlines. An attorney can assess your case, inform you of the relevant statute of limitations, and take appropriate action to preserve your claim and seek the compensation you deserve.

Examples of Personal Injury Statutes of Limitations Across the U.S.

Statutes of limitations for personal injury cases vary across the United States.

Here are some examples of notable timeframes set by different states:

  • Louisiana and Tennessee have the shortest statutes of limitations at one year from the accident date. Kentucky has a one-year deadline for car accident injuries but two years for other negligence claims.
  • Maine has the longest statute of limitations at six years from the injury date. 
  • Missouri has the second-longest statute of limitations at five years from an accident and injuries.
  • Half the 50 states set the personal injury statute of limitations at two years, including Florida.
  • 15 states and the District of Columbia set the deadline at three years. 
  • Three states have a time limit of four years.

These are just the time limits that apply to most cases, as there may be exceptions and variations within each state. Some states have different statutes of limitations for specific types of personal injury cases, such as medical malpractice or wrongful death claims.

Kentucky and Colorado each have different statutes of limitations for car accident claims and general personal injury claims (Kentucky allows less time for car accident lawsuits, while Colorado allows more time for car accident lawsuits.)

To determine the specific statute of limitations that applies to your personal injury case, always seek a legal assessment from a knowledgeable attorney. Never try to decipher these laws yourself, as a mistake can cost you all the compensation you need.

A personal injury attorney can assess your case, consider any exceptions or variations, and ensure that you take appropriate action within the proper time frame to protect your rights and seek the compensation you deserve.

Statutes of Limitations Laws Can Change

Like any type of law, the statute of limitations can change over time. For example, earlier this year, the Florida legislature amended the long-standing statute of limitations in the state. Previously, you had two years to file car accident lawsuits and four years to file general negligence lawsuits. As of March 2023, the two-year statute of limitations will apply to all personal injury cases.

This tort reform purportedly aims to prevent bad actors from drawing out civil cases to seek more compensation. However, it hurts injury victims, as it cuts their time frame to investigate an accident, prepare a petition, and file a lawsuit in civil court.

Legislatures across the country regularly consider tort reform proposals that might affect the statute of limitations in your state. Always have a skilled attorney review your situation to identify the current time limits you must follow.

Common Exceptions to Personal Injury Statutes of Limitations

While statutes of limitations set the general time frame for filing personal injury claims, certain exceptions can extend or toll (pause) the deadlines. These exceptions vary by jurisdiction and type of claim, but here are some common exceptions to personal injury statutes of limitations:

Discovery rule

In cases where the injury or its cause was not immediately apparent, some jurisdictions apply the discovery rule. This rule delays the start of the statute of limitations until the injured party discovers, or reasonably should have discovered, the injury or its connection to the defendant’s actions.


Minors (individuals under age 18) often have special rules regarding the statute of limitations. In many jurisdictions, the clock doesn’t start ticking until they reach the age of majority. For example, if the statute of limitations is two years and a person suffered an injury as a minor, they may have until two years after turning 18 to file a claim. However, this is not the case in every state, so always check with a lawyer regarding statutes of limitations for your injured child.

Tolling for disabilities

Some states have provisions that toll the statute of limitations for claimants with certain disabilities, such as mental incapacitation or physical impairment. The statute of limitations may resume once the disability is no longer an issue.

Fraud or concealment

If the defendant intentionally conceals information related to the injury or accident, the statute of limitations may toll until the injured party discovers or reasonably should have discovered the fraud or concealment.

Contractual agreements

In some cases, parties may agree to contractually modify the statute of limitations. This can happen, for example, in certain employment agreements or insurance policies. Have an injury lawyer review any relevant contracts to determine if such modifications apply to your situation.

Your lawyer can review the details of your situation and advise whether any of these exceptions might apply to give you additional time to file a lawsuit. Identifying exceptions requires analysis by an experienced legal professional.

You Might Have Additional Deadlines to Consider

The statute of limitations for injury lawsuits is not always the only deadline you must meet. Most states have additional laws applying to specific types of personal injury claims.

Notice Requirements for Medical Malpractice

If you have a medical malpractice claim, many states set specific rules requiring you to provide healthcare providers with notice before filing a lawsuit. You must properly notify the healthcare provider or facility of your intent to file a claim for medical malpractice within a specified time frame, often ranging from 30 to 180 days.

The notice usually includes details about the alleged malpractice, the injuries sustained, and the potential damages you plan to seek. If you fail to comply with the notice requirements the court will dismiss your lawsuit. Your lawyer can advise you of any notice requirements in your state. Some time frames for medical malpractice notices are very short, so never wait to discuss your options with an injury attorney if you discover a medical injury.

Notice Requirements for Lawsuits Against the Government

Some injuries happen due to negligence by a state agency, such as the Department of Transportation, when a road hazard causes a car crash. Most states have strict notice requirements for government claims, often ranging from a few months to a year. If you fail to meet the notice requirements, you can lose your right to pursue compensation in civil court.

Notice Requirements for No-Fault Car Accident Claims

Some states have no-fault car insurance laws, requiring injured motorists to seek compensation from their personal injury protection (PIP) insurance coverage. Notice requirements for PIP claims vary by state and insurance policy, but they tend to be very short time frames.

In some states, PIP insurance requires the insured party to notify the insurance company of an accident and injuries, typically within 14 to 30 days. Policies might require a claimant to seek medical attention within 14 days to qualify for a PIP claim.

While you might think you have a few years to file an injury lawsuit, other – much shorter – deadlines and requirements might apply to your case. You must consult a personal injury attorney as soon as possible following an injury if someone else injured you.

The statute of limitations is important when deciding when to contact a personal injury lawyer. However, it is not the only reason you should never wait to seek legal help and begin the process.

Here are several additional reasons why you should never wait to seek legal assistance after a personal injury:

  • Preservation of evidence – Over time, evidence can become lost, damaged, or compromised. Prompt legal assistance allows for preserving crucial evidence, such as accident reports, medical records, witness statements, and surveillance footage. This evidence is necessary in building a strong case and proving liability.
  • Investigation – Gathering evidence, conducting interviews, and investigating the circumstances surrounding your injury requires time. By seeking legal help early on, you allow your attorney to conduct a thorough investigation, ensuring you do not overlook any important details.
  • Witness recollections – Memories can fade, and witnesses may become harder to locate or forget important details over time. By seeking legal help promptly, your attorney can reach out to witnesses while their recollections are still fresh, improving the accuracy and credibility of their statements.
  • Insurance company tactics – Insurance companies often employ tactics to minimize their liability and pay out as little as possible. They may pressure you into accepting a low settlement or use your statements against you. Legal representation from the start can help level the playing field, as your attorney can handle all communications with the insurance company, protect your rights, and negotiate on your behalf. They need time for proper negotiations before you decide to file a lawsuit.
  • Medical treatment and expenses – Seeking legal help promptly ensures you have the necessary resources to obtain appropriate medical treatment and address expenses. Your attorney can help you pursue compensation for medical bills, rehabilitation costs, lost income, and future medical needs.

Immediately Consult a Personal Injury Lawyer Near You

Steven A. Bagen Attorney for Personal Injury Cases near Gainesville, Florida area
Steven A. Bagen, Personal Injury Lawyer in Gainesville, Florida area

When it comes to personal injuries, time is of the essence. Waiting too long to seek legal help after a personal injury can significantly erode your ability to pursue a successful claim. Once you get the medical assessment you need and begin treatment, immediately call a personal injury law firm in Gainesville.

An attorney can identify all requirements and deadlines for your situation, ensuring you do not jeopardize your chances of obtaining full compensation.