The statute of limitations outlines a time limit for a plaintiff to submit their lawsuit to the courts, and it varies depending on the type of case being presented. Enforcing statutes of limitations keep things moving through the justice system more efficiently by prompting claimants to file as soon as possible. Without laws requiring plaintiffs to file their personal injury claims by a certain time, a plaintiff could feasibly wait as long as he or she wanted to file. This delaying of justice might not be fair for the defendant, who could lose opportunities to defend themself with the loss of evidence over time. Committed to the field of personal injury, The Hadi Law Firm strives to obtain justice for our clients within the two-year statute of limitation norm for Texas lawsuits along with the notable exceptions related to minors, adult sex crimes, the discovery rule, medical malpractice, first-party auto insurance, comparative negligence, maritime claims and asbestosis and silica-related illnesses.
Two Year Limit and Exceptions
In the criminal courts, statutes of limitations set time limits by which prosecutors must bring charges against a defendant. In the civil courts, statutes of limitations limit how long a plaintiff has to file a claim to damages against a defendant. In Texas, the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury claim is two years. This means that you have two years from the date of your personal injury or property damage to get your lawsuit onto a court schedule in order for it to be heard by the court. A two-year statute of limitations is the norm for a Texas lawsuit, and It’s important to note the statute of limitations because if the time has expired, then the court can refuse to consider a complaint, no matter how valid it is. Texas has identified a number of different scenarios that might delay the running of the statute of limitations “clock,” or pause the clock after it has started to run, effectively extending the filing deadline:
- Adult Sex Crimes
- Discovery Rule
- Medical Malpractice
- First-Party Auto Insurance
- Comparative Negligence
- Maritime Claims
The two-year statute of limitations on personal injury cases is tolled for minors until they reach the age of maturity (18). Thus, when a minor sustains an injury, their statute of limitations generally does not run until their 20th birthday. However, this tolling provision also does not apply if the injury results in the death of a minor because the law generally affords extra protection to children. Aditionally, under the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code Section 16.0045(a), there are specific statutes of limitations for sexual assault and abuse claims against minors. A person must bring suit for personal injury not later than 15 years after the day the cause of action accrues if the injury arises as a result of conduct that violates certain provisions of Sections 21 and 43 of the Texas Penal Code that prohibit:
- sexual assault of a minor
- aggravated sexual assault of a minor
- indecency with a minor
- promoting prostitution of a minor
- continued sexual assault of a minor
- sexual trafficking of a minor
A person must bring suit for personal injury not later than five years after the day the cause of action accrues if the injury arises as a result of conduct that violates certain provisions of Sections 21 and 43 of the Texas Penal Code that prohibit:
- sexual assault of an adult
- aggravated sexual assault of an adult
- promoting prostitution of an adult
- sexual trafficking of an adult
The “discovery rule” is another exception to the usual statute of limitations for filing injury cases. The victim may not reasonably discover the injury until a considerable length of time has elapsed after the negligent act was committed. The discovery rule allows the plaintiff to file the claim within a reasonable time once the injury is discovered. When the discovery rule applies, the statute of limitations is tolled until the plaintiff discovers, or through the exercise of diligence should have discovered, the nature of their injury and its cause in fact.
By hiring a lawyer willing to go to trial, the insurance company will likely end up paying the full value of your claim. At the same time, the insurance company incurs the additional expense of defending the case. From a business standpoint, it’s in the insurance companies best interest to pay the trial lawyer fair value for the claim. Because in the long run, they will save money. The insurance company will obviously value a person’s claim much higher when that person has a lawyer who knows how to try a case and can win. Learning how to choose a personal injury lawyer can save you and your family time and money.
Insurance companies are not on your side. These massive corporations like to control the entire personal injury case process, which is why they have teams of lawyers and adjusters to handle claims. Their goal is to make money, not to make sure that you get a fair settlement that represents the true value of your losses. The one thing that creates a risk to insurance companies that causes them to make higher settlement offers quickly is which lawyer you hire. Insurance companies consider your lawyer’s skill, education, reputation, and, most importantly, their track record of filing lawsuits and taking cases to trial.
Medical malpractice cases are subject to a two-year statute of limitations. However, tort reform in Texas has placed additional limits on medical malpractice claims that limit what and when exceptions may apply. There is a 10-year statute of repose that prevents even minors from bringing claims more than 10 years after the incident occurs. Additionally, statutory limitations on damages only apply to medical malpractice cases in Texas. Non-economic damages (such as those meant to compensate for “pain and suffering”) are limited to $250,000 per defendant, and $500,000 overall. For medical malpractice cases involving wrongful death in Texas, there is a cap that is indexed for inflation. The cap started out at $500,000, but with the inflation adjustment it is now around $2,000,000 (Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code section 74.303 (b)).
First-Party Auto Insurance
The statute of limitations on first-party claims are typically two to four years in Texas. An uninsured motorist claim, underinsured motorist claim and personal injury protection claim are filed as first-party claims against insurance companies pursuant to a written contract. If they fail to pay after a claimant has made a presentment of their claim, the claimant has the right to sue for breach of contract and/or a declaratory judgment action. The statute of limitations for breach of contract and the declaratory judgment is generally four years from the date of the accident. The personal injury protection claim statute of limitations is often defined by an insurance contract. They are commonly three years, but one should always check for changes or alterations. Additionally, if an agent commits negligence in the handling of the claim, that negligence claim may have a two-year statute of limitations.
In shared-fault injury cases, Texas follows a “modified comparative negligence rule,” meaning that the amount of entitled compensation will be reduced by an amount that is equal to your percentage of fault. Texas law includes a proportionate responsibility rule, which dictates that a claimant may not recover damages if their percentage of responsibility is greater than 50%. If they are less than 50% responsible for their injuries, damages are reduced in proportion to their amount of responsibility (V.T.C.A, Civil Practice & Remedies § 33.001).
While three years is common, maritime accidents have numerous statutes of limitations that may apply under state and federal law. They vary depending upon whether the case is onshore or offshore, on a waterway, dock, or the ocean and other factors. Depending upon how and where the accident occurs, the case may fall under state personal injury law, state worker’s compensation laws, the federal Longshore and Harbormen’s Act, or the Jones Act.
Pursuant to Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, Section 16.0031, a cause of action for personal injuries or death caused by asbestosis or silica-related illnesses has an extended statute of limitations. The cause of action accrues on the earlier of: the date of the exposed person’s death, or the date that the claimant serves on a defendant a required report. This means that the two-year statute of limitations will not begin until the earlier of the two above events occurs.
If you handle your own case, you will need to have a good understanding of the legal underpinnings of your claim as well as the settlement process. Receiving a fair amount in the settlement may involve savvy negotiation skills combined with knowledge of both the statutory laws and case law. Some injury cases are highly complex. For example, if you were injured by a defective product or by what you believe was medical negligence, you may need the help of experts in order to uncover the evidence that you will need to prove your claim. Auto accidents may require accident reconstruction, witness interviews and a solid understanding of physics. You’ll also need to be able to decipher your own medical records so that you can appropriately value your claim.
The Texas Torch
The “takeaway” from this very general outline is that the statute of limitations can be very complex in certain circumstances. If you or a loved one have been the victim of negligence, The Texas Torch is an experienced personal injury trial lawyer who is familiar with the various statutes and case law pertaining to the particular circumstances. The last thing you want is to miss out on your chance to obtain compensation, so do not risk the statute of limitations expiring for your case. At The Hadi Law Firm, our personal injury attorneys are committed to fight for you and ensure you receive fair compensation so that you focus your energies on full recovery.