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How Long After an Injury Can You Sue?

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Whether or not you can file a lawsuit for a past motor vehicle accident or injury depends on various matters, including where and when the crash occurred and your age. When you are allowed to file a personal injury lawsuit, the time you are permitted to file a personal injury lawsuit is controlled by the statute of limitation laws in the state where the crash occurred.  This means that state guidelines will have to be followed closely by your legal team in order to help you receive the compensation you deserve.

In Missouri, you typically have five years from the crash date to file a personal injury claim. In Illinois and Kansas, you usually have two years from the crash date to file a personal injury claim. However, the time can be shortened or lengthen depending on whether the party died from the injuries sustained in the crash or if the injured party is less than twenty-one years of age at the time of the incident.

If the person dies due to a motor vehicle crash, the time for filing a wrongful death claim is shortened to three years in Missouri. The time for filing a wrongful death claim in Illinois and Kansas is two years.  

The time for filing a personal injury claim can be lengthened if the injured party is incapacitated due to mental capacity or is younger than twenty-one. Missouri tolls the running of the statute of limitations until the injured party either regain their mental ability or reaches the age of twenty-one. Once the person reaches the age of majority or regains their capacity, the statute of limits begins to run, and they have five years to bring the claim. So, even though an injured party could file the lawsuit on his/her own once the person turns eighteen, the statute of limitations is tolled until the person turns twenty-one. See RSMo § 516.170.

The time for filing some other claims to a motor vehicle crash, such as an uninsured motorist claim, can arguably be brought up to ten years after the crash date in Missouri. The argument in such a case is that you are not bringing a personal injury claim, but rather, you are bringing a contract action based on the automobile insurance policy.

An uninsured motorist coverage claim is a separate and distinct cause of action from the tort claim asserted against the uninsured motorist. Shafer v. Auto. Club Inter-Ins. Exch. , 778 S.W.2d 395, 399 (Mo. App. S.D. 1989).  Because action on the uninsured motorist provision of an automobile insurance policy is a contract action, it is governed by the ten-year contract statute of limitations instead of the five-year tort statute. Welch v. Auto. Club Inter-Ins. Exch., 948 S.W.2d 718, 721 (Mo. App. E.D. 1997); RSMo§ 516.110.

Keep in mind: one must carefully read the automobile policy of insurance for any terms or conditions that may shorten the time for filing an injury lawsuit.

A personal injury action could be re-filed well beyond the five-year statute of limitations in Missouri if the lawsuit was dismissed without prejudice. In those specific cases, the lawsuit can be re-filed within one year of the dismissal, even though the crash occurred more than five years ago. See Missouri’s Saving Statute RSMo § 516.230.

The savings statute operates to extend the applicable limitation period by giving the plaintiff a one-year grace period within which to file a new action after a nonsuit. Valley Farm Dairy Co. v. Horstmeier, 420 S.W.2d 314, 316 (Mo.1967). In order for RSMo § 516.230 to apply, the original action must have been timely filed within the applicable limitations period, and the action must have resulted in a “nonsuit”. Ostermueller v. Potter, 868 S.W.2d 110, 111 (Mo. banc 1993).

It is important to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney to determine when your personal injury lawsuit can be filed. Once the statute of limitations has expired, you will be completely barred from bringing a personal injury claim. As such, it is important to consult an experienced personal injury attorney immediately if you intend to get a personal injury claim.

Missouri:

  • Negligence Action: 5 years from the date of the event/crash, RSMo § 516.120(4)
  • Wrongful Death: 3 years from the date of death, RSMo § 537.100
  • Minor/Mentally Incapacitated: 21+ 5 years, RSMo § 516.170
  • Medical Malpractice: 2 years from date of occurrence of the act of neglect complained. See exceptions, RSMo § 516.105
  • Medical Malpractice Minor: If below 18 years old, then until 20th Birthday, but in NO event shall the action commence after 10 years from the date of the act of neglect, RSMo § 516.105(3)
  • Municipality: 90 Notice & 5-year statute of limitations, RSMO § 82.210 / RSMO § 516.120(4)

Illinois:

  • Negligence: 2 years, 735 ILCS 5/12-202
  • Wrongful Death: 2 years from date of death, 740 ILCS 180/2(d)-(e)
  • Minor: Aged 18 + 2 years/ If municipality then age 18 + 1 year, 735 ILCS 5/13-211
  • Medical Malpractice: 2 years, 735 ILCS 5/13-212(a)
  • Medical Malpractice Minor: If less than 18 years old, no more than 8 years after the date on which occurred the act or omission alleged in such action, provided that in NO event the cause of action is brought after the person’s 22nd Birthday, 735 ILCS 5/13-212(b)
  • Municipality: 1 year SOL (includes governmental entities and employees), 745 ILCS 10/8-101
  • Dram Shop: 1 year, 235 ILCS 5/6-21
  • IL Court of Claims: 1 year Notice/ 2-year LIM, 705 ILCS 505/22-1 & 705 ILCS 505/22(c)

Kansas:

  • Negligence: 2 years, K.S.A. § 60-513(a)(4)
  • Wrongful Death: 2 years, K.S.A. § 60-513(a)(5)
  • Minor: Birthday + 1 year, but in NO event more than 8 years after the act giving rise to the injury occurred, K.S.A. § 60-515(a)
  • Malpractice: 2 years from discovery, K.S.A. § 60-513(a)(7)
  • Municipality: See special notice requirements. Two-year statute of limitations, K.S.A § 12-105b / K.S.A. § 60-513(a)(4)

Product Liability Action:

  • Missouri: 5 years, RSMO § 516.120
  • Illinois: 2 years, 735 ILCS 5/13-213(d)
  • Kansas: 2 years, K.S.A. § 60-513(a)(4)
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