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If you have been injured by someone else’s negligence in the State of Texas, such as in a car accident, the road toward recovery is likely to be both long and challenging. Regaining your physical health and well-being is difficult enough – but it is that much more so in the face of mounting medical bills and lost earnings related to lost hours on the job. When you factor in that you only have a limited amount of time to file a lawsuit, it puts an even finer point on the matter.
While you tend to your recovery, an experienced Texas personal injury attorney will help guide your claim toward an advantageous outcome.
Texas Statute of limitations for Personal Injury. What is it? In Texas, you have only two years from the date of the accident that leaves you injured to file a lawsuit against the at-fault party. This is known as the statute of limitations for personal injury claims. While this may strike you like plenty of time to get the job done, it’s important to understand that being laid low by a serious injury – such as those caused by car accidents or slip and fall accidents – can put you out of commission for a considerable amount of time, and two years can elapse in a flash. Consulting with a dedicated personal injury attorney sooner rather than later is always in your best interest.
You can find out more about the two-year statute by referring to Section 16.003 in the state’s Civil Practices & Remedies code. This code states that a civil action for personal injury must be filed no later than two years after the date for the cause of action or the date of the injury.
If another party’s intentional or careless behavior led you to sustain an injury, you want to request the Texas courts to issue a civil remedy–damages–for losses. This two-year time frame applies to the principle of negligence or an intentional tort, which applies to assault and battery in the civil court.
Therefore, it is important to distinguish between negligence and intent in tort law. An intentional tort case occurs when a person harms you or someone else deliberately. Otherwise, most personal injury cases involve the other party’s negligent or reckless behavior.
If two years have gone by since the personal injury or intentional tort claim and you submit a lawsuit, the other party will usually file a motion to dismiss. The court will typically support the dismissal. Even if you’ve sustained substantial damages, the clock has stopped ticking, and you lose your right to negotiate or settle a claim.
The state has recognized several scenarios that may extend the statute of limitations clock, or at least pause it, after it begins to run. Below are examples of two of these exceptions.
Motions to dismiss by defendants based on statutes of limitations are legal maneuvers aimed at challenging the timeliness of a plaintiff’s lawsuit. Statutes of limitations are laws that set specific timeframes within which legal action must be initiated. When defendants believe that the plaintiff has exceeded the allotted time, they may file a motion to dismiss, arguing that the claim is barred by the applicable statute of limitations.
One of the primary purposes of statutes of limitations is to ensure the timely resolution of legal disputes, promote fairness, and prevent the filing of stale claims when evidence and witnesses may no longer be readily available. The specific limitations periods vary depending on the nature of the legal claim and the jurisdiction. Common types of claims subject to statutes of limitations include personal injury, breach of contract, and fraud.
In a motion to dismiss based on the statute of limitations, defendants typically argue that the plaintiff failed to file the lawsuit within the prescribed time frame. This motion is often filed early in the legal process, challenging the viability of the case before extensive litigation ensues. The court will consider the applicable statute of limitations, the date when the cause of action accrued, and any factors that might toll or pause the limitations period.
Plaintiffs, in response, may present arguments to toll or extend the statute of limitations. Common tolling factors include the plaintiff’s discovery of the injury, fraudulent concealment by the defendant, or the plaintiff’s minority or incapacity at the time of the incident. Courts carefully evaluate these arguments to determine whether the plaintiff has demonstrated a legally recognized reason for extending the limitations period.
While statutes of limitations serve important purposes, the application of these laws can be complex and context-dependent. Courts must balance the need for finality in legal matters with the recognition that some circumstances may justify deviations from strict time limits.
It’s essential for both plaintiffs and defendants to be vigilant about statutes of limitations, as they can significantly impact the outcome of a case. Plaintiffs must file their claims within the prescribed time frame to preserve their legal rights, while defendants may leverage the statute of limitations as a potent defense strategy.
Legal professionals play a crucial role in navigating these complexities, ensuring that their clients’ rights are protected and that the legal system operates fairly and efficiently. As such, a comprehensive understanding of the relevant statutes, case law, and exceptions is vital for those involved in litigation.
While the statute of limitations is a strict deadline in the majority of injury cases, there are some exceptions in limited cases. However, you should never assume that an exception applies to your situation. Instead, you should always have an Austin personal injury attorney from TK Injury Lawyers assess the matter.
Below are some examples of possible exceptions when the statute of limitations might be extended longer than two years for a personal injury case in Texas.
One of the common exceptions to the statute of limitations is the discovery rule. Under the discovery rule, the statute of limitations begins to run from the date the injury is discovered, or when the injured person should have reasonably discovered they had an injury.
This rule applies in cases where the injury is not immediately apparent or when the responsible party fraudulently concealed the injury. For example, if you were exposed to toxic chemicals that caused you harm, but you only became aware of the harm several years later, the statute of limitations may start from the date you discovered the injury.
Another exception to the statute of limitations is the tolling of the limitations period for minors. When a child is injured, the statute of limitations is typically tolled or suspended until the child reaches the age of 18. Once the child turns 18, they will have the same two-year window to file a personal injury lawsuit as an adult. This exception recognizes that children may not be able to fully understand their legal rights or pursue a claim on their own and allows them additional time to take action.
Additionally, Texas law provides for a tolling of the statute of limitations for individuals who are mentally incapacitated or deemed legally incompetent at the time of their injury. In these cases, the limitations period is tolled until the person regains their mental capacity. This exception ensures that those who are unable to protect their own legal interests due to mental incapacity are not unfairly barred from seeking compensation for their injuries.
If the party that caused the injury took steps to fraudulently conceal their misconduct and liability for the harm, the statute of limitations will be tolled until the liability is discovered. For example, if a doctor commits a surgical error and actively conceals it from a patient, the statute of limitations can be paused until the patient discovers the doctor’s fraudulent concealment. This is similar to, but distinct from, the discovery rule.
The statute of limitations is not the only time-related concern you have after an injury, as preserving and securing evidence is pivotal to your case. Waiting too long to call an Austin personal injury attorney can lead to the deterioration or disappearance of critical evidence, significantly weakening your chances of a successful personal injury claim.
Time can erode the memories of witnesses who may have observed the incident or can provide essential details about the circumstances leading to the injury. Statements made closer to the time of the incident are generally more accurate and reliable. Delaying legal action may result in witnesses forgetting key details or becoming less certain about what they witnessed.
If the incident occurred in a public place or an area under surveillance, there may be security camera footage capturing the event. However, surveillance footage is often only retained for a limited time before being overwritten. Acting promptly allows your attorney to secure this footage before it is lost, providing valuable evidence to support your case.
The preservation of physical evidence is time-sensitive. This includes preserving the condition of the scene where the incident occurred, such as a hazardous walkway or a defective product. Weather conditions, human activity, or alterations to the environment can compromise the integrity of the evidence. Prompt legal intervention ensures that investigations can be conducted while the evidence is still fresh.
Seeking immediate medical attention after an injury is not only crucial for your health but also for building a strong personal injury case. Prompt medical care establishes a clear connection between the injury and the incident, and medical records serve as vital evidence. Delaying medical treatment may give rise to questions about causation and the severity of the injuries.
Consulting with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible after an incident ensures that a thorough investigation can be initiated, preserving and documenting crucial evidence. Attorneys have the experience to navigate legal complexities, communicate effectively with relevant parties, and build a compelling case on your behalf.
The preservation of evidence is paramount in personal injury cases, and the timely involvement of an attorney can make a significant difference in the strength and success of your claim.
The covered losses – or legal damages – you suffer as a result of the other party’s negligence can be immense, and a critical element of your claim is ensuring that all such losses are well accounted for.
The medical expenses you experience in relation to your personal injury claim may be ongoing. The more serious your injuries, the more extensive you can expect your medical expenses to be, and if you experience secondary health concerns or complications, these costs can be compounded. Common medical expenses include:
While you are on the path toward recovery, you are very likely to be off the job and experience lost earnings as a result. This is difficult enough in the face of all those medical expenses, but if your earning potential is affected, it can be more so.
The pain and suffering – both physical and emotional – you experience as a result of someone else’s negligence should receive the attention it deserves. Overcoming this category of loss can be exceptionally challenging.
Settling your claim before you understand the full extent of your losses can leave you with far less compensation than the amount to which you are entitled – and that you need to fully recover.
If you have been hurt because of someone’s negligence or have been involved in an incident that involved an intentional tort, you need to contact a personal injury attorney without delay. You don’t want to lose your right to gain the compensation you need. The accomplished personal injury attorneys at Terry & Kelly PLLC are well equipped to help guide your claim toward its best possible resolution within the statute of limitations that guides it. We care about you and your claim, so please don’t delay contacting us for more information today.
In fact, it often is best to call an attorney shortly after an accident (even if you’re in the hospital), as it makes filing a claim easier. Not only is the incident still fresh on your mind, but it is also easier to gather the evidence or the testimonies of witnesses.
Also, remember, if you’ve just been involved in an accident, get medical help, if possible, the same day. Even if you believe you’re physically or emotionally okay, some injuries may take time to surface. By having a doctor check you, you can connect with them more easily if you experience medical struggles or complaints at a later date.
Trent Kelly obtained his law degree from the University of Arkansas in 2007. He is licensed to practice law in Texas and regularly assists clients with their legal matters. Trent’s practice is primarily focused on personal injury matters – particularly those involving motor vehicles (such as cars, commercial trucks, 18-wheelers, and motorcycles) and wrongful death – but he also handles various business litigation matters as well. Click here to take a look at some complex cases Trent has resolved.
Years of experience: +15 years
Location: Austin, TX
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