How long do I have to file a lawsuit?

If you have been injured from the negligence of another person or entity or if they have failed in their legal duty towards you, you can file a civil lawsuit against them. But as you might imagine, there is a time limit to pursue legal remedy. This limit is called the statute of limitations. If you wait too long to file your civil case and the statute of limitations has passed, you will not be able to file a lawsuit and pursue compensation for your loss or injury.

Recently on our legal forum a user asked, "How long do I have to file a lawsuit?" Unfortunately, there is no clear cut answer to this question. In fact, not only do different states have varying statute of limitations, the limitations also vary by suit.

Common types of civil cases

There are several different types of civil cases including:

  • Contract disputes / breach of contract
  • Property disputes or damages
  • Torts which result in harm, including negligence, libel, and accidents
  • Car accidents
  • Class action matters
  • Business disputes
  • Commercial law disputes

The statute of limitations for each type of case listed above can vary by state. For instance, if you have been injured in a medical malpractice case in North Carolina you have three years from the date of the action which caused the injury to file a claim. North Carolina also allows two years from the date of discovery to file a claim, up to a maximum of four years. Texas, however, has a shorter statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims. In Texas patients are allowed to file a medical malpractice claim within 2 years from the date of the injury.

What about personal injury cases? The statute of limitations also varies for personal injury claims. For instance, in Texas if you have been injured due to the negligence of another person you have two years from the date of the injury to file your injury lawsuit. Other states allow more time to file a personal injury lawsuit.

How are damages determined for civil cases?

States also have varying methods to determine who is entitled to compensation after an injury. For instance, four states adhere to the law of contributory negligence. Under contributory negligence law you may not be entitled to compensation for your injuries if you contributed to your injuries in any way.

Other states will decide if the claimant's responsibility is more than 50%. In those states if the court determines you are more than 50% at fault for your own injuries they will not award you compensation for your loss. Other states will decide the percentage of fault for each claimant and divide the compensation payments accordingly.

Given the complexity of personal injury law it's best to talk to a personal injury lawyer if you have questions about your case and how long you have to file a lawsuit.

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