How long a person may have to file a personal injury claim is governed by the legislature through what is commonly referred to as a statute of limitations. The specific time set by a statute of limitations is dependent on two primary factors: (1) type of claim and (2) type of defendant.
The type of claim is the primary factor in determining how long a particular statute of limitations may be. For instance, if your claim is negligence that resulted in bodily injury or property damage, you have two years from the date you were injured to file a claim. Failure to file a complaint with the court will forever bar the claim. Other claims have different time periods. It is important to understand what type of claim you would be filing to determine the statute of limitations for your particular case.
In addition, the type of defendant may also be a factor in determining the statute of limitations. This factor is the defendant specific. If a claimant has a claim against an individual person or company, as opposed to a governmental entity, the claimant typically has two years from the date of the injury to file a lawsuit (as previously referenced for personal injury cases. Thus, the claimant and the at-fault person’s insurance company can negotiate the claim for at least two years before the claimant must file a lawsuit or lose the claim forever.
If the potential defendant is a governmental entity, the claimant has 180 days from the date of the injury to serve a Notice of Claim on the proper representative of the governmental entity and one year from the date of the injury to file a lawsuit. If the claimant fails to serve the government representative or government employee with a Notice of Claim within 180 days of the injury, the claimant loses his or her claim, even if the claimant files a lawsuit within the one-year statute of limitations.
Again, these deadlines are called statutes of limitations and they set a bright-line deadline that a claimant has to file a lawsuit. A statute of limitations does not set a specific date for which the claim must be settled, but it does provide a claimant with a deadline for filing a lawsuit.