Q. What’s a New Jersey personal injury statute of limitations?
A. Let’s first break down the phrase “New Jersey personal injury statute of limitations” into its parts, and then define each part separately. A “statute of limitations” is the legal deadline to file a lawsuit. If you miss the deadline, you lose your right to sue. New Jersey has different deadlines for different types of cases. A “personal injury” case is one where the victim suffers a physical or psychological injury. (As opposed to just a loss of money, reputation or property.) Thus, the New Jersey personal injury statute of limitations is the deadline for a physical or psychological injury victim to file a lawsuit in New Jersey to obtain compensation.
Q. How long is the NJ personal injury statute of limitations?
A. Generally, for a victim who is over 18 at the time of the accident, the deadline to file a lawsuit is TWO YEARS from the date of the incident. But there are some exceptions to the general rule.
Q. What if a government entity or employee injured me?
A. In most cases, the same two-year New Jersey personal injury statute of limitations deadline applies. However, there is an additional deadline you must comply with if a government entity or employee injures you. This deadline is much shorter than two years. It’s often as short as 90 DAYS from the date of the accident. I discuss this additional requirement, and other exceptions that apply to government liability cases, in a different set of FAQs.
Q. What do you mean by a “government entity”?
A. The state of New Jersey, or any county, municipality, school board, public housing authority, or police department. Also, New Jersey Transit, or any state, county, or local government agency or department, etc., located in New Jersey. If in doubt, you should assume that a government entity or employee caused your injury. Then, file the additional papers on time.
Q. Can a NJ personal injury deadline be more than two years?
A. As a practical matter, yes. That’s because, in some cases, the deadline will not begin to run on the accident date. For example, if the victim is under 18, the New Jersey personal injury statute of limitations generally will not start to run until the victim turns 18. Thus, the statute of limitations will not expire until two years after the victim’s 18th birthday. (For birth injury cases, deadlines run from the 13th, not the 18th, birthday, for those born from July 2004 onward). Similarly, the above-mentioned 90-day deadline, in cases involving government liability, generally will not expire until 90 days after a juvenile victim’s 18th birthday.
And there are other exceptions. For instance, take the case where the victim, minor or adult, had no way of knowing that someone’s negligence had caused their injury. In such a matter, the deadlines may not start running until the victim should have reasonably known. This exception might apply, say, in a medical malpractice case. Sometimes, a person doesn’t know that a procedure was botched, or that a diagnosis was missed, until years later, when symptoms arise.
Q. So these FAQ tell me all the deadlines in my case, correct?
A. Not necessarily. It’s impossible to cover every type of case in a short set of FAQ. There are also exceptions to the general rules. Some cases, particularly those involving negligence by a government entity or employee, may have statutes of limitations or other deadlines that are less than one year. I would advise any victim to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as they realize that they may even possibly have been injured by someone else’s negligence. Never delay consulting a lawyer because you assume that particular deadline applies to you. If your assumption is wrong, you will lose your right to recover compensation. You should also never assume that any New Jersey personal injury statute of limitations has expired, unless you receive a legal opinion from a qualified personal injury attorney to that effect. There may be an exception that you aren’t aware of.