“Statute of Limitations” refers to the time period in which a legal claim may be asserted. There are different time periods depending on the type of case. For instance, the time period for a personal injury or wrongful death case is different than the time period for a breach of contract case. If the statute of limitations expires, then the legal claim also expires. You must either settle your case or file a lawsuit within the applicable time period or else all legal rights to any recovery will be lost forever.
Most cases are governed by a two-year statute of limitations. Cases like personal injury, wrongful death, damages or loss of property, and other similar claims are valid for two years from the date of the occurrence. For instance, if you are injured in a car accident, then you have two years from the date of the accident to either settle your case or file your lawsuit against the responsible party. Otherwise, your rights to any recovery will expire.
Claims for Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits are valid for up to three years from the date of the car accident.
Cases involving breach of contract are covered by a four-year statute of limitations. This would also cover claims for uninsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM). When a person is injured in a car accident, and the other driver or vehicle is uninsured, then you may make a claim under your own policy for uninsured motorist benefits. Because this coverage is provided under your own insurance policy, it is therefore treated as a contract case. Therefore, the statute of limitations is four years.
The statute of limitations period for any particular case begins to run after a claim has “accrued.” A claim accrues once the incident giving rise to the party’s legal claim occurs. If you are injured in a car accident, then the time period begins to run on the date of the accident. If the case happens to be for uninsured motorist benefits, then your claim accrues once your have submitted your case to the insurance company and the adjuster either denies your claim or fails to properly evaluate your claim.
If you are unable to settle your case within the applicable time period, then you can preserve your rights if a lawsuit is filed within the statute of limitations. So long as you diligently prosecute your lawsuit, then your rights to any recovery will remain valid so long as the lawsuit is on file even though the time period has since passed.
There are also other situations where the statute of limitations period may be “tolled.” Tolling of the statute of limitations means that the applicable time period is extended or suspended. However, there must be some valid legal exception for the statute of limitations be tolled. Some examples include the plaintiff being a minor child or the defendant being out of the State of Texas, incarcerated, or on active duty in the military.
Some cases may also have other time periods which apply in addition to the statute of limitations. If your case is one which involves governmental liability, Texas law provides that the governmental department or agency is entitled to receive written notice of the claim within six (6) months of the incident. For example, if you are injured in a car accident which a police car or school bus, failure to provide written notice of your claim to the proper governmental agency within six (6) months of the accident will result in your case being barred.
The law regarding the statute of limitations can get very complicated. This article is only intended to provide a basic overview of the general rules and is not a complete rendition of the law governing any specific case. But one thing can be certain: If you miss the statute of limitations deadline for your case, then your rights will be forever lost. Likewise, always consult with an experienced lawyer regarding your rights.