What Is the Statute of Limitations on Personal Injury Cases?
Posted in Lawsuit on May 17, 2019
A statute of limitations refers to the permissible amount of time that a court designates to certain court and filing processes in civil lawsuits. Each state’s court system possesses their own predetermined statute of limitations. These statutes outline the time frames and guidelines to follow if you miss a deadline. Missouri’s statute of limitations designates a five-year deadline for all lawsuits that seek compensation for injury. This time limit begins the day that the incident occurs. The five-year limit includes all cases that fall under negligence law, in which another party indirectly causes injury through their own negligence.
Why Do Limitations Exist?
State-wide statutes of limitations exist for several reasons. The main reason is that they prevent a claimant from threatening legal action for an indefinite time period. If limitations did not exist, someone could sue an individual for personal injury decades later, even after the claimant addressed the injury themselves.
The second reason that these statutes are necessary surrounds the viability of evidence. It becomes increasingly harder to obtain valid, relevant evidence that has not been damaged, corrupted, or simply lost as more time passes. Witness testimony falls under this reasoning. Between the date of the incident and the court date, a witness could move, die, or could possibly be paid off by the defendant. Leaving large gaps of time between the incident and the filing date also leaves room for a lot of issues to arise.
Missing a Deadline
Depending on the case and individuals involved, many factors can dictate when a claimant can, or is willing to, file a case against the negligent party. If you miss the five-year deadline, you should still file the claim anyway. The statute of limitations is still in place, but the court will not prevent you from filing your claim. The defendant in your case is liable to file a motion to dismiss your claim, citing Missouri’s statute of limitations deadline. In most cases, the court will allow this motion to pass. Allowing the full five years to pass also reflects badly if you choose to file a formal lawsuit. By delaying your case, you give up the upper hand you might have previously had in settlement negotiation.
Exceptions to the Law
Missouri’s statute of limitations applies to all cases. However, a few exceptional circumstances qualify for an extension, or a pause in the five-year count down.
- Age – If the plaintiff is under 21, they have five full years from the day that they turn 21 to file a claim.
- Disability – If a plaintiff is mentally incapacitated when the accident occurs, they have five full years to file a claim once a professional declares that they are no longer incapacitated.
- Travel – If a defendant leaves the state of Missouri after the accident, the five-year clock starts once they return.
Missouri’s statute of limitations addresses these circumstances, but other gray areas do exist that could qualify a plaintiff for extension.
- Discovery Rule – The discovery rule acknowledges that not all damage is detectable within the first five years. This is often the case in chemical or toxic exposure. For example, illnesses caused by asbestos exposure – a premises liability – are often not detectable until years, or decades, pass. In these cases, the clock does not start until a plaintiff discovers their injuries.
- Special Cases – Your unique history dictates what counts as a special case. Child abuse is one case that a plaintiff can pursue well into adulthood, if the evidence is available. This is especially relevant for those who have blocked the negative memories from their mind and are undergoing some form of psychotherapy. Missouri’s statute of limitations state that abuse victims have three years from the date that they realize they’ve suffered psychological or physical damage to file a claim.
In any of these cases, appointing a lawyer to your case can prevent any hiccups from occurring. Without preparation and relevant evidence, the court is more than likely to dismiss a case that is more than five years old. A skilled attorney can help gather evidence and witness testimony, to the best of their ability, so that you have ground to stand on during your court case.