Certain legal claims like a personal injury claim are subject to strict deadlines, also known as a “statute of limitations.” In New Jersey, an injured person generally has up to two years to file a lawsuit for an injury from the date of an accident. However, if you fail to file a lawsuit before this deadline expires, you will be barred from bringing your claim in court.
In this article, a New Jersey personal injury lawyer discusses the various statute of limitations deadlines that could apply to an accident, including negligence, car crashes, wrongful death, and Tort Claims Act deadlines.
General Statute of Limitations
The general statute of limitations is a term that refers to the time limit for bringing a lawsuit in court. Limitation periods vary depending upon the type of claim you intend to file. For the most part, personal injury claims in New Jersey are subject to a two-year statute of limitations.
Under New Jersey law, N.J.S.A. § 2A-14-2, the statute of limitations for New Jersey personal injury cases is two years. Exceptions to this rule exist for specific circumstances. Ensure you speak with an injury attorney to determine if any apply to your case.
Premises Liability Statute of Limitations
A premises liability case involves an injury that occurs on private or commercial property, or even public property owned or managed by a governmental entity. Slipping and falling at a grocery store or falling down the stairs at a theater due to a broken handrail are examples of premises liability cases. The New Jersey statute of limitations for premises liability cases is two years from the date of the incident which caused the injuries.
Related Article: What Is a Premises Liability Case?
Product Liability Statute of Limitations
Product liability cases, such as malfunctioning vehicles and manufacturer errors, also fall under the broader arm of New Jersey personal injury law. For example, if you got into an accident because your brakes did not engage, at no fault of your own, then you could file a product liability case. The statute of limitations for New Jersey product liability claims is two years from the date of your accident injury.
Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations
If your family member's injuries resulted in death, then the case falls under a wrongful death claim. The deadline for New Jersey wrongful death claims is two years from the date of your loved one's death. However, there is an exception if the death resulted from murder or manslaughter, in which case there is no statute of limitations under N.J.S.A. § 2A:31-3, and a case can be brought at any time. The law was changed because of the unfairness to families who must go through, and wait for, lengthy murder investigations that may take longer to complete than the statute of limitations deadline.
Related Article: What Is a New Jersey Wrongful Death Action?
Tort Claims Act Notification Deadline
Claims against a governmental entity carry a shorter deadline when you are suing a state, county, or city or acting civil servant for causing the accident. Examples of personal injury accidents involving government entities include collisions with public buses or slips and falls on public or governmental property.
The notification deadline for a New Jersey Tort Claims Act claim under Title 59 is ninety (90) days from the date of the accident. As a result, if you do not serve a “notice of tort claim” to the appropriate entity within 90 days, you will be forever barred from bringing your claim. Governments have a shorter statute of limitations based on the historical doctrine of “sovereign immunity,” meaning, the government is completely immune to a lawsuit. But over time, governments like New Jersey state determined to create an exception to the 100% government immunity rule out of a sense of fairness to the public and those who are legitimately injured by the government or its agents.
When Does the Statute of Limitations “Time Clock” Begin Running in New Jersey?
An important question in determining how much time you have left to pursue a personal injury lawsuit is finding out when the time starts to begin. Typically, the clock starts to begin on the date of the accident that caused your injuries. For example, if you are injured in an automobile crash, in New Jersey you will have two (2) years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit. Again, if you do not file a lawsuit within that two-year time frame, you will be barred from pursuing a claim. Courts will typically determine when your injury claim “accrued,” meaning, when did the clock start for purposes of calculating the statute of limitations period.
In some cases, injuries may not appear, or wrongful death may not occur for several months after the accident. In a wrongful death claim, the statute of limitations typically begins on the date of death. This information is important when applying the statute of limitations to your case since the moment that your time clock starts ticking can vary. Not filing your claim in time could result in a case dismissal or claim denial, which means no award for your medical bills, lost wages, or pain and suffering.
In certain case, the “discovery” rule may apply to provide you with additional time to file a lawsuit. For example, the “discovery” rule may apply in a medical malpractice case. Assume a case where you have surgery to remove some intestines because of an illness. The doctors use a metal clamp during the course of the surgery. Unfortunately, the doctors make an error and mistakenly leave the metal clamp in your abdomen. You do not know about this at the time. Several weeks or months later, you become very sick, go to the hospital, and an x-ray reveals that the prior doctors mistakenly forgot to remove the metal clamp. You will then have two years from the date you “discovered” the malpractice to file a lawsuit. The “discovery” rule, however, is a very selective rule and extremely fact-sensitive based on the specific facts of a case. Therefore, it is best to speak with an injury attorney to further discuss the specific facts of your case.
Related Article: What Are Pain and Suffering Damages?
Additional Time Is Provided for Children, Minors, or Mentally Disabled Persons
There are some exceptions to the two (2) year statute of limitations in New Jersey. For example, children or minors (those under 18 years old) are not subject to the strict two year statute of limitations. Rather, the time period is “tolled,” or extended, until the child turns the age of majority, meaning, 18 years old. Then, once a minor child reaches the age of 18 years old, the two (2) year statute of limitations begins to start. Therefore, in order to file a timely lawsuit for a child or minor under age 18, you must file a lawsuit within two (2) years of their 18th birthday – meaning, on or before their 20th birthday. Likewise, if a person has a mental disability, their deadline to file a claim is also tolled, or extended, until such time that they have the mental ability to understand their legal rights.
Related Video: What to Know About the Statute of Limitations in New Jersey
Do Not Wait to Speak with an Injury Attorney
If you delay your personal injury claim, there is always the possibility that your accident case will be dismissed. However, your case can be diminished in a variety of other ways. For example, witnesses may forget what happened over time, documents may be lost, or witnesses may change their testimony after speaking with the other party's insurance company.
Important information about your vehicles may be lost simply because time has passed. If the accident involved a defective product that caused a car to veer out of control, you risk missing the deadline for filing a product liability suit. All of these reasons underscore the critical nature of speaking with an attorney as soon as possible.
Discuss How Long You Have to Sue for an Injury with a Lawyer
Several factors may affect your injury claim, including the application of New Jersey's statute of limitations. Speaking with an injury lawyer will help you understand your options toward receiving compensation for your physical and emotional losses before the statute of limitations occurs.
In addition to determining initial deadlines, they will help you manage all of the deadlines that govern an injury or wrongful death matter. You do not have to negotiate or litigate a claim alone as you try to physically and emotionally recover. Your legal representation will stand by your side throughout the process.
Call the Legal Team at Hunt & Associates for a Free Consultation
You deserve fair and just compensation for your injuries after an accident. Learn more about your legal options by calling the Hunt & Associates personal injury lawyers for a Free Consultation at (866) 456-HUNT (4868), or you are also welcome to message us here. We don't get paid until you win.
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