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How Long Do I Have To File My Personal Injury Case?

Statute of limitations is the legal term for your deadline to sue someone. Think of this as the amount of time you have to file your personal injury case. Missing your statute of limitations can have grave consequences, usually resulting in your case being dismissed.

A statute of limitations analysis can vary greatly depending on what type of case you bring, what court you are in, and your specific facts. Do not take anything in this article as a substitute for hiring an attorney to do a thorough analysis of your specific case.

Statute In A Tort Case

This article focuses on a “tort” case, also called a general negligence case. These types of cases include car crashes, slip and fall, malpractice or product liability cases. The law and statutes referenced are for the state of Indiana. Time frames for contract cases, criminal or government administrative cases, or cases in another state can be different.

The general concept that the statute of limitations on a tort case is two years from the date the “cause of action accrues.”  I.C. § 34-11-2-4.  Indiana Code § 34-11 generally covers limitations on actions. You can find an easy to access copy of Indiana’s code at the General Assembly’s website, https://iga.in.gov/.

In the simplest case, a cause of action “accrues” when an incident occurs, and the injured party knows about it. In a car crash, this is the date of the crash. Your two-year statute begins to run on the date of the crash. A slip and fall is under the same category. The safest way to calculate your statute is to work from the date of the incident.

Extending The Two Year Statute 

There are situations where the statute of limitations is more than two years from the date of the incident. In these situations, you are arguing that the claim did not “accrue” until a later date, and thus your two years did not begin to run until a later date. The general exceptions can include legal disability or fraudulent concealment. If the injured party is determined to be legally disabled, the claim does not accrue until the disability is removed. Legal disability can include being a minor under the age of 18 or an incapacitated adult.  

A second exception is concealment. If the Defendant did something to hide his wrongdoing, the argument is that the statute does not begin to run until the Plaintiff discovers the injury. These types of exceptions can come up in any case, including medical malpractice. In medical malpractice the issues arise in a wrongful child delivery case or a case where a doctor actively works to conceal his or her wrongdoing.  

Medical Malpractice Cases

A caution about medical malpractice cases. In Indiana, medical malpractice is governed by its own statute. An analysis of when the statute runs in a medical malpractice case is very much case law and fact specific. If you think you are the victim of medical malpractice, you really need to consult an attorney that works specifically in that area of law. Do not wait to call an attorney. Requesting records and having experts review a case takes time. A medical malpractice case is not the sort of thing an attorney can pick up and properly evaluate on the eve of the statute running. Indiana’s Medical Malpractice Act has very strict requirements that must be met before you can bring an action in state court.

When You Must Take Action Before 2 Years

There are times you must do things before the two years run to preserve your claim. Indiana has a Torts Claim Act that requires you to file a Tort Claim Notice well before two years. You can find the Statute at I.C. § 34-13.  https://iga.in.gov/laws/2023/ic/titles/34#34-13 Indiana’s Tort Claim Act generally applies if you are suing any governmental entity from the State level down, meaning state, county, or city. To preserve your claim you must file a Tort Claim Notice within 180 days of the incident. Indiana’s Tort Claim Act has a lot of specifics that we will cover in our next blog.

Keep in mind that if you are trying to sue the Federal Government, the Federal Torts Claim Act is going to apply. The Federal Tort Claim act has its own specific requirements, such as a Federal Tort Notice called the SF95 form.

Need More Help With Your Injury Case?

At Martz and Lucas, we handle personal injury cases in Northern Indiana. Our team of professionals takes every case seriously and works to maximize your recovery. Reach out to the team at info@martzandlucas.com or 219-462-1529.