When filing a lawsuit, it is important to consider the statutes of limitations in your state. Statutes of limitations determine how long you can wait to file a lawsuit or other civil action after the incident has happened. For example, if a person is injured in a car accident in Texas, he or she has two years from the date of the injury to file suit. Furthermore, statutes of limitations prevent prosecutors from filing criminal suits after the designated time period has passed. The time lengths vary by state.
Prior to filing a civil lawsuit, make sure to consult with your attorney about the statute of limitations for your case. You may be unable to go to court if the allotted time period has passed. If you can go to court, the defendant could use the statute of limitations to argue that your case is not valid. Cases are typically dismissed if the defendant can prove that the statute of limitations applies and has tolled.
Civil statute of limitations laws in Texas range between one and five years, based on the type of claim. Most all personal injury cases must be filed within two years, but personal injury cases from sex crimes have a five year time limit. Property damage, assault and battery, and trespassing claims similarly have two years to be filed. Fraud, contract breaches, and debt collection must be filed within four years.
While these statutes apply in most cases, there are some exceptions based on what the court decides and/or what the law states. In a personal injury case, a court may decide that the limitations period began when the plaintiff found out about the injury, instead of when the injury occurred. Furthermore, if one statute prevents you from making a specific claim, you may be able to file a lawsuit for a different claim under a statute with a longer time period.
Overall, statutes of limitations establish a time limit for filing a lawsuit after the incident occurred. Statutes vary by state and type of offense. While statutes can prevent an individual from going to court, there can be exceptions based on the court’s interpretation.
Furthermore, someone who cannot pursue a lawsuit based on a statute could file another type of claim. Talk with an attorney about applicable statutes and how to make a successful claim despite statutes affecting your case.
Contributors: Nhan H. Nguyen, MD, JD, MSF, Attorney at Law and Stacie Nguyen, Business Honors and Finance Student, The University of Texas at