How long do I have after an accident to file a lawsuit?

There are time periods within which a personal injury lawsuit must be filed. These time periods are known as “statutes of limitation”. (Note that different types of lawsuits have different statutes of limitation, so the time period specified for a personal injury lawsuit will differ from other lawsuits.)

 

In New Jersey, the statute of limitations for a personal injury lawsuit is two years. This means that a lawsuit must be filed within two years of the date that the lawsuit accrues. Generally, a personal injury lawsuit accrues on the date of the accident, or the date the injury is suffered.  This statute of limitations is subject to a few exceptions.

 

Exceptions to the statute of limitations: The Discovery Rule

 

The first exception is known as the “discovery rule.”  This rule generally applies to medical malpractice, toxic tort, or other complex personal injury lawsuits.  In these types of cases an injured victim or family member may not discover the conduct or omission which gives rise to an actionable lawsuit until months or even years after it occurs. For instance, in toxic tort cases, the injured person may not feel the effects of the toxic exposure until years after it actually happens. Similarly, in a medical malpractice case, a medical tool that was negligently left inside a patient’s body may not be discovered until the patient begins to suffer symptoms, which may be years after the surgery.  Since the injured victim would have no way of knowing that they were the victim of a negligent act or omission, or that they have suffered an injury from that negligence until visible symptoms manifest themselves, the two-year period may be tolled. This means that the two-year period does not begin running until the date that the injury is discovered, or should have been discovered with reasonable diligence.

 

Exceptions to the statute of limitations: Victims under age 18

 

Another exception to the two-year statute of limitations arises when an infant, or a person under the age of 18, is injured. In these cases, the statute of limitations does not begin to run until the injured infant reaches the age of 18. At that point, the two-year statute of limitations begins to run. This does not, however, prohibit a lawsuit from being filed prior to the infant reaching the age of 18. A lawsuit can always be brought on their behalf by a guardian ad litem prior to the injured infant’s 18th birthday.

 

Exceptions to the statute of limitations: Legal insanity

 

The final exception is if an injured victim is declared legally insane.  If an injury victim is legally insane, the statute of limitations is tolled until that person is declared sane.

 

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About RAM Law

RAM Law represents all of Central Jersey in personal injury cases and is staffed by experienced accident and injury attorneys. We provide legal help for victims of slip and fall accidents, medical malpractice, workplace injuries, truck and car accidents, and other personal injuries. Call (732) 247-3600 to discuss your case and set up a free consultation at our New Brunswick or Somerville law offices.

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