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The Statute of Limitations for Civil Cases – Don’t Blow Your Case!

Posted by Stephanie Sherman | Aug 17, 2021 | 0 Comments

The Statute of Limitations for Civil Cases – Don't Blow Your Civil Case!

The statute of limitations is the time period during which you must file your civil case.  If you don't file your case in time, your case is time-barred, meaning its too late. 

Statutes of limitations differ based on where the damages or injury occurred.  If you are in a car crash in Texas, you would use the Texas' statute of limitations of two years for personal injury cases.  If you crash in New York, there is a three-year statute of limitations for personal injury cases. 

What about other cases, such as breach of contract?  If you live in Texas and negotiated a contract with an out of state person, the other state's statute of limitations for a breach of contract action may apply depending on where the breach took place.  In Texas, the statute of limitations for breach of contract is four years, but in Delaware, its three years.  The best course is to consult a lawyer if you think you have a case so they can advise you of the applicable statute of limitations.  Don't wait!

Are There Any Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations that Can Save My Case?

Latent Diseases 

I do a lot of cancer cases caused by exposure to chemicals.   Cancer is a “latent” disease, meaning it can take years, even decades, to manifest into a diagnosable cancer.  For example, if a farmer was exposed to pesticides early in his career, and developed non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (a cancer linked to pesticides including Monsanto's RoundUp), 10 years later when was no longer farming, the case is still live.   The statute of limitations for the farmer's case is not triggered by the exposure time period 10 years earlier, but by the diagnosis of cancer.  Even with a cancer diagnosis, the statute of limitations still may not be triggered.  If the farmer did not know, and had no reason to know, his cancer was related to a particular pesticide, the statute of limitations period still has not started.   This is known as the “discovery rule” exception.  Most states have a discovery rule, but each state has different nuances. 

Minors

A minor's statute of limitations does not begin to run until the minor reaches the age of majority.  At that point, the statute period begins and the applicable time period is applied.  For a Texas minor injured at age 16, she has until age 20 to file a civil personal injury case (age 18 plus 2 year statute of limitations).

Government Entities

Suing a governmental entity such as a town, city, county, or state can be tricky.  First, most state laws require that legal notice of intent to sue be sent by a date certain.  And, in most instances, the laws, rules, ordinances, and/or charters applicable to the governmental entity will dictate the time period by which a case must be filed.  Most of the deadlines are very short so beware. 

An attorney can make an agreement with the other side to toll or postpone the statute of limitations. This occurs when the parties are engaged in investigation or settlement discussions.  The agreements must be in writing and signed by all parties to be enforceable.  

About the Author

Stephanie Sherman

On June 1, 2022, I joined the nationwide award-winning law firm, Baum Hedlund.  I am grateful to join this elite group of trailblazers that is so deeply committed to taking on tough cases and fighting for the underdog. You can still reach me here, via my bio page or at 800-827-0087. Stephani...

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