If you were injured as a result of someone else’s actions, it is natural to desire compensation for your injuries. In the US, this process is usually handled through a personal injury lawsuit. Most people do not really know how this kind of lawsuit works, however. A common question is how long you have to file it. If you wait too long, you will not be able to hold the responsible party accountable, but you will probably not have time to file the lawsuit right away as you deal with healing from your injuries. This guide will tell you everything you need to know.

The Statute of Limitations

The legal term for your time limit to file a lawsuit is the statute of limitations. Essentially, if you file a lawsuit before the statute of limitations expires, then you are fine. If you wait until after it expires, however, your lawsuit will almost certainly be thrown out. The specific length of your statute of limitations will depend on which state you live in and what kind of lawsuit you hope to file. In most states, a personal injury lawsuit has a statute of limitations of two or three years. This means you have about two or three years to file the lawsuit from the date of the injury. These states have a longer or shorter statute of limitations:

  • Florida – Four years
  • Kentucky – One year
  • Louisiana – One year
  • Maine – Six years
  • Missouri – Five years
  • Nebraska – Four years
  • North Dakota – Six years
  • Tennessee – One year
  • Utah – Four years
  • Wyoming – One year

Remember that filing a lawsuit takes time. You cannot wait until right before the statute of limitations expires and hope to file in just a day or two. It is always beneficial to speak with an attorney as soon as you are able to and get the process going early.

The Discovery Rule

There is only one major exception to the statute of limitations system. If you do not discover the identity of the responsible party, or you do not discover the injury, until a later date, the statute of limitations does not begin counting down until this discovery is made. This is called the discovery rule.

The first thing you should do is speak with an attorney, who is skilled in personal injury lawsuits. He or she will be able to give you information that is specific to your unique case, as well as answer any questions you may have about the process.