PERSONAL INJURY STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS SETS DEADLINE FOR HOW LONG ACCIDENT VICTIMS HAVE TO SUE.
STATE FARM INSURANCE ACCUSED OF LULLING MAN INTO MISSING DEADLINE.
What is a personal injury statute of limitations? Say your car was rear-ended. Or you were bitten by a dog. Or you slipped and fell on a wet floor in a supermarket. It wasn’t your fault. Your injuries were severe. It took you a long time to recover.
Let’s assume further that, a little over two years after the incident, a friend suggests that you see a personal injury lawyer. Perhaps, he advises, you can be compensated for your pain and suffering.
You see the lawyer. But you are crestfallen when the attorney tells you that you waited too long. The personal injury statute of limitations has expired. Therefore, you will never be able to recover a dime for your pain and suffering.
Simply put, a personal injury statute of limitations is a law that limits the time you have to sue for accident injuries. In New Jersey, the deadline is generally two years from the accident. Some cases, such as defamation, have shorter deadlines. (The deadline to sue for defamation is generally one year).
There may also be other deadlines involved. For example, if the car that hit you, or the dog that bit you, or the floor you slipped on, was owned by the government, you may have just 90 days to file a claim notice.
Normal Deadlines Are Extended Only Rarely, in Unusual Circumstances.
In rare cases, these deadlines can be extended. To obtain an extension, you usually have to prove that you weren’t reasonably aware at first that an accident injured you. For example, if a doctor botches your operation, but you don’t experience symptoms until a month later, the deadline might be extended an extra month.
In most case, though, you will be immediately aware that the accident caused injury. Therefore, you will be bound by the normal personal injury statute of limitations.
Another exception might be if you were negotiating with the other party’s insurer, and the insurer lulled you into believing it would settle the case out of court, to get you to miss the suit deadline.
Ruling on Personal Injury Statute of Limitations
State Farm recently was accusedof that tactic. A man’s lawsuit was filed a few weeks after the two-year anniversary of his accident. The man’s lawyer claimed that State Farm lulled him into thinking that they would settle the case. Two different trial judges agreed. They allowed the victim an extension.
Unfortunately, a panel of appeals judges disagreed. They threw the case out of court.
I disagree with the appeals court. Based on the facts, I agree with the trial judges. The extension was proper.
That said, I personally would never take such a chance with one of my clients. My policy is ALWAYS to file a case before the deadline expires. (Unless, of course, the case has formally settled). Otherwise, the client’s fate is left to the whims of various judges. As the case shows, different judges see thing differently. I don’t believe in taking such risks.
The bottom line is this. If you’re injured in an accident, see an EXPERIENCED attorney immediately. Your financial future may depend on it.
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