The statute of limitations in personal injury cases refers to the specific and predetermined time injured victims have to settle their claims with the liable party’s insurance carrier or file an injury lawsuit. Failing to file a lawsuit or settle your claim within this time window will result in losing your legal right to pursue the claim and seek compensation, even if you suffered serious losses.
In New York, three years is the statute of limitations for most personal injury claims, such as:
- Car accidents
- Slip and fall accidents
- Product liability
- Negligent emotional distress
- Other negligence that caused any personal injury
On the other hand, injured claimants are only given one year from the date of the incident to file a claim for assault and/or battery, slander and/or libel, and intentional emotional distress.
Special Statute of Limitations for NY Medical Malpractice Injuries
For medical malpractice claims, injured victims must file a lawsuit or settle with the liable party within two years and six months of the incident or from the latest treatment date of the same condition, injury, or illness the treatment is continuous.
There are, however, some exceptions to this time limit:
- Foreign objects: An injured claimant has one year from the date they discovered doctors left a foreign object inside their body following a medical procedure to commence legal action or within a year of the date that they discovered facts that would’ve led a reasonable individual to notice the presence of a foreign object.
- Cancer misdiagnosis: For medical malpractice claims involving a cancer misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose cancer appropriately, the statute of limitations starts running once claimants discover the misdiagnosis. They also have two years to file a lawsuit.
- Insanity: Personal injury statute of limitations doesn’t apply to legally insane individuals. A legal action for medical malpractice that involves an insane individual should commence within two years and six months of the date when doctors consider the “insanity” cured.
- Infancy: Extension of the statute of limitations applies to minors who are victims of medical malpractice. Minors should file a legal action against the liable party within ten years of the incident date, unless other exceptions apply to the case, such as the discovery of cancer misdiagnosis or a foreign object.
- Wrongful death: Surviving family members are given two years from the death of a loved one due to medical malpractice to file a lawsuit against the liable party.
The Discovery Rule for Personal Injury Claims
Most states, like New York, allow the extension or tolling of the statute of limitations in situations in which the statute has expired before injured victims discovered that they have injuries or discovered that someone else’s negligence caused their injury
. Claimants often use the discovery rule for filing extensions in mesothelioma claims and other toxic exposure cases.
The delayed discovery rule is similar to resetting the time limit for filing a personal injury claim. Usually, this exception enables the statutory limit to start from the date a claimant discovered the injury instead of the date the claimant sustained the injury. However, it’s very important to know that extensions due to delayed injury discovery are not automatic.
Keep in mind that every case must stand on its own strengths and merits, plus the reason for the delayed discovery should be reasonable. To be granted an extension, your lawyer should prove to the court that you could not have reasonably discovered the injury until the expiration of the statute of limitations.
Protect Your Legal Right to File a Personal Injury Claim
In some cases, injured victims have yet to file or settle their injury claim even with the looming statute of limitations deadline due to:
- The liable party doesn’t have insurance
- The liable party fled the accident scene and didn’t provide information
- The liable party promised to pay the injured victim’s medical bills in monthly installments but then stopped paying
- The insurance provider is delaying the settlement process or undervaluing the injured claimant’s injuries and won’t offer a fair settlement amount
In cases like these, the injured victim’s only recourse is to file a lawsuit against the liable party before the statute of limitations expires. This will effectively suspend, toll, or delay the statute. The claimant will then have adequate time to pursue compensation without worrying about the filing deadline. It’s also vital to note that your claim might settle at any time before the trial even begins.
Statute of Limitations and Settling Claims with Insurance Providers
Insurance claims adjusters or representatives are experts at delaying the process of personal injury claim settlements for as long as they want. The reason for this is that delaying a settlement even for a month translates to money that continues earning interest for the insurance company. Furthermore, if you fail to have your claim settled before the deadline, you won’t get any compensation, and the insurance provider gets to keep the money. It’s also not the job of the claims adjuster to make sure that you settle your claim before the statute expires.
Likewise, take note that verbal settlement agreements for injury claims will not suffice to stop the deadline from expiring. Insurance adjusters do not have the legal authority to delay the deadline. You need to file a lawsuit or secure a signed injury claim settlement agreement before the statute expires, or you will automatically forfeit your legal right to obtain compensation. However, if the claims adjuster misrepresents your claim’s status or drags out your claim without reasonable cause, you may file a bad faith insurance claim against the insurer.
Even people who have been negotiating their injury claims on their own should consider consulting a personal injury lawyer if their claim’s deadline is looming or their negotiations have stalled. Most personal injury lawyers offer free initial consultations, so it won’t cost you anything to have your case reviewed and learn about the best legal actions specific to your case.