Many of our clients ask us about how long they have to file a claim. This is typically only a few weeks after their injury, but they’re not sure how the timeline for a personal injury claim works. Here’s everything you need to know about your claim time limit, also known as the statute of limitations.
What is a statute of limitations?
The statute of limitations is the time period that people have to file a personal injury claim. The statute of limitations varies by state by injury, and by the responsible party.
In New Jersey, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims is generally two years but can be as short as 90 days, depending on the party responsible for your injury. For example, if you file a claim against a state or local government, the statute of limitations can be much shorter than two years.
Knowing the statute of limitations on your personal injury case can help you file a claim promptly.
Why do the statutes of limitations exist?
The statute of limitations is a legal process designed to help both plaintiffs and defendants. The first goal is to encourage plaintiffs to file their cases on time. When you file soon after your injury, the details are likely fresh in your head, and it’s easier to find evidence and documentation. This gives you an edge on the case because you can answer any questions asked of you.
The statute of limitations also protects the defendant by limiting the window that someone has to file a claim against them. This way, most people don’t have to worry about someone filing a claim against them five or ten years after an accident by which point they might not have the evidence they need to defend their actions in court. For example, most businesses only keep security camera footage for a limited amount of time before they rewrite over those recordings to save on storage costs.
What is the statute of limitations for New Jersey personal injury cases?
The statute of limitations for a personal injury case in New Jersey is two years. For most injuries, this means that you have two years after your injuries to file a claim.
If your injury is the result of exposure to a harmful chemical, it can take years for you to realize the damage that’s done to you. In this case, it’s not fair to start the statute of limitations at the date the employee was first exposed to the chemicals. Instead, the statute of limitations begins when you’re made aware of the damages your injury caused.
This concept is called the, Discovery Rule, referring to the reasonable amount of time someone should have realized they were injured. While the discovery rule means that you might have more time, you shouldn’t wait before speaking to an attorney. In some cases, your statute of limitations can be as short as 90 days, and once it passes, you lose your ability to file a personal injury claim.
What are some exceptions?
In the vast majority of cases, the statute of limitations starts as soon as you’re aware of your injuries and won’t stop until the two-year statute is reached. However, there are certain times when the two-year statute will stop or be extended to help the defendant. One of the most common examples is accidents involving minors. In New Jersey, if the injured party is under the age of 18, the statute of limitations does not begin until they turn 18. This means that a minor who is injured has until their 20th birthday to file a claim.
Other exceptions to the statute of limitations include cases where the injured party is mentally ill, or disabled. Additionally, if the defendant flees the state, the statute of limitations stops for the plaintiff and resumes when the defendant returns to the state where the claim would be filed.
The goal of these exceptions is to protect the people bringing cases against various entities. A minor or someone who is mentally ill might not know their rights or be able to file a claim in the provided window. These exceptions allow all people to seek justice who are unable to function under the standard guidelines of the law.
If you were recently injured and another party is responsible, don’t wait. Call Console and Associates today and take the first steps to move your case forward.