There’s so much going on in the aftermath of an accident in which a person is injured or killed – medical treatment, rehabilitation, changes in routines, job issues. It’s not uncommon that an accident victim will put off seeking legal advice, assuming the courts will still be there as a remedy after all the other details and adjustments have been made. Unfortunately, even though the justice system will still exist, there’s a good chance that one who procrastinates may miss out on the chance to receive compensation through a personal injury claim . . . forever.
Statutes of Limitations in Indiana
This is because of time limits, or statutes of limitation, prescribed by state law, which define the time period during which civil lawsuits may be filed. At the Indiana personal injury law firm of McNeely Stephenson, there’s nothing we hate more than having to tell someone that it’s simply too late for them to seek compensation for their injuries – especially when they otherwise would have had a good case against the reckless driver, or incompetent surgeon, or manufacturer of a defective product.
Here’s what you need to know about the application of the statute of limitations in Indiana personal injury cases.
What You Need to Know
In Indiana, most personal injury claims must be filed within two years of the date of the injury. This is true of car wrecks, slip and fall accidents, dog bites, bicycle and pedestrian injuries, motorcycle wrecks, and other accidents that happened because of negligence. The two-year statute of limitations also applies to wrongful death cases.
Indiana medical malpractice claims are also generally governed by the two-year statute of limitations. However, this is not a hard-and-fast rule and there are many exceptions — another reason for contacting a lawyer who is familiar with the intricacies of Indiana injury law. In some cases the time begins running not when the injury occurred but when it was discovered. Indiana also has a rule which allows a potential medical malpractice plaintiff to “toll” – or suspend — the statute of limitations for 90 days by filing a “proposed complaint” with the medical review panel.
Other exceptions in the law apply to situations in which a child was injured. When the injured person is less than 18 years of age at the time of some incidents (like car accidents), the statute of limitations does not begin until the child turns 18. This is not true for medical malpractice or product liability claims, however. In medical negligence cases, the two-year statute of limitations begins to run when the child becomes 8 years of age. In a product liability case, the statute of limitations is two years, regardless of the child’s age.
Another situation in which timing plays a crucial role and varies from the general rule is that in which an injured person seeks to bring a claim against a governmental entity. In that case, the plaintiff must file a Tort Claims Notice within either 180 or 270 days of the event, depending on which entity is being sued. If the person is incapacitated, the notice must be filed within 180 days after that incapacitation is removed.
You should also keep in mind that it’s a good idea to contact a lawyer well before the time limit expires because preparing a legal case can be quite a complex and time-consuming process. Even though complaints can later be amended, they must initially be filed with the court before the statute of limitations has run. And it can take a while to do the necessary fact-finding in order to draft the pleadings that will put the parties on notice and “stop the clock.” If the accident involved multiple individuals, it may take some time to identify all appropriate defendants. It may be necessary to gather medical records and witness statements. The best course of action is to contact an attorney as soon as possible after your injury.
Finally, it is important for you to understand that statutes of limitation are prescribed by state law, and they vary from state to state. The statute of limitations for motor vehicle accident claims in Kentucky is one year, not two, and in Florida it is four years. If you have been injured in an accident in Indiana, it is imperative that you contact a lawyer who is familiar with our state’s laws and legal procedures.
At McNeely Stephenson, we have been successfully litigating Indiana personal injury cases since 1981. Call us at 1-855-206-2555 or use our convenient online contact form to discuss your potential claim . . . but don’t wait too long.