Traffic Accident Statute Of Limitations
If you have been involved in a traffic accident in Boston, calling The Attorney Injury Group as soon as possible will help ensure your case is properly preserved and timely filed.
Punctuality is key in personal injury cases. You do not have an unlimited amount of time in which to file your case, and the sooner you consult with an experienced injury attorney, the sooner we can move to preserve and collect evidence, and protect your rights.
The deadlines by which cases must be filed are called the “Statute of Limitations.”
These are state laws that limit the amount of a time a person has to go to court and file an initial complaint, which begins a civil lawsuit.
Statute of limitations deadlines vary from state-to-state and depending on the kind of loss or harm suffered.
In personal injury lawsuits as well as in wrongful death litigation – both of which frequently stem from car accidents – the statute of limitations is three years. This is true whether you are filing a negligence claim against another driver or a products liability lawsuit against the manufacturer or distributor of the vehicle.
M.G.L.A. 260 § 2A specifically states any tort actions to recover for personal injuries have to be brought within three years from the date the “cause of action accrues.”
So in the vast majority of car accident lawsuits, the statute of limitations will expire within three years. However, there are some circumstances under which that timeline may be stretched (or “tolled”), and some cases where notification timelines are much sooner than three years.
Delaying or Tolling the Massachusetts Statute of Limitations
For most people injured in Massachusetts car accidents, the clock on the statute of limitations will begin to run on the day of the accident. This is called the “accrual date.” This is the date and time at which the “cause of action arises.”
The law is pretty clear on this point, and it’s only under limited circumstances you may be able to step outside of that time window and file later than three years from the date of the crash.
However, the statute of limitations may be extended – or “tolled” – via the Discovery Rule.
The Discovery Rule takes into account there may be situations in which a person was unable to discover they were injured. In these cases, the law allows the statute of limitations to run from the time the injured party discovered or should have discovered they were injured.
So for example, if a driver was involved in an accident, but didn’t realize until a year later that he or she had sustained substantial injury as a direct result of that crash, the statute of limitations may be tolled in that case via the Discovery Rule.
Similarly, an action can be tolled under the Discovery Rule if the identity of the defendant was unknown for a time. An example of this as it pertains to auto injury cases would be a hit-and-run crash. Per M.G.L.A. 260 § 4, a person can file a lawsuit within six months of learning the identity of a defendant – even if that occurs more than three years from the date of the crash – so long as written notice is provided to both local police and the department of motor vehicles within one month of the crash.
In a wrongful death date, the accrual of a wrongful death case is within three years of that person’s death – which may not be exactly three years from the crash if the person lived for some time after the accident. Wrongful death cases also take into account the discovery rule. So if, for example, a person dies in a crash, but it isn’t learned until four years later the crash was caused by a vehicle defect, the “accrual date” would start at the time that information became known or was knowable.
Shorter Time Limits
While three years may sound like a lot of time, some circumstances compel plaintiffs to take action in a shorter amount of time.
That’s why it’s so important to speak to an injury lawyer as soon as possible.
First of all, your attorney may want to start by negotiating with an insurance company for an out-of-court settlement. But that takes time, and if those efforts prove fruitless, you may be left with only a short window in which to file your lawsuit.
Beyond that, if the defendant – or any one of the defendants – is a government entity, you will have just 60 days from the time of your injury in which to file a notice of claim against that particular defendant. Then, depending on the jurisdiction and type of government entity, there may be special procedures, rules, paperwork and requirements.
Contact the Attorney Injury Group today for a free and confidential consultation.