If you suffer harm due to an accident, medical malpractice, or a similar injury event, your right to submit a claim for compensation is time limited. The New Jersey Statute of Limitations sets the deadline for filing a personal injury claim at two years from the date of the injury event. After that, an injured claimant loses all rights to sue. However, there are certain circumstances that could “toll the statute,” in other words, stop the clock on a claim, thereby extending the time limit beyond two years. Factors that could toll the statute include:
- Latent injury — Not all injuries are readily apparent when they occur. The “discovery rule” stops the clock on claims until the victim knows, or reasonably should have known, that he’s been injured. The discovery rule is important in cases of medical or surgical malpractice where the patient is unaware a healthcare provider has made a mistake, or that damage has been done, until much later.
- Unavailable defendant — The statute of limitations presumes that the defendant is available to be sued. If the defendant flees the jurisdiction to avoid the lawsuit, the court can grant equitable relief, tolling the statute until the defendant returns.
- Defendant’s bankruptcy — When a person files for bankruptcy, the court issues an automatic stay that prohibits creditors from attempting to collect on debts. Since a personal injury claim is an enforceable obligation subject to the stay, the law allows the victim to wait until the victim is out of bankruptcy to file the lawsuit.
- Victim’s loss of capacity — A victim who is suffering from mental illness lacks the capacity to file a lawsuit. The victim can wait until he or she regains mental capacity to file the suit, whether the mental illness is related to the injury event or not.
- Minor victim — Children also lack the capacity to sue. Parents can sue on behalf of their minor children injured due to negligence, recklessness or a deliberate, unlawful act. But the statute of limitations does not begin running for an injured minor until the child’s 18th birthday.
The statute of limitations should not be an issue in your case as long as you contact a reliable attorney as soon as possible after your injury. The personal injury lawyers at Seigel Law are ready to assist accident victims in Bergen County or anywhere in New Jersey. Contact us online or call 201-444-4000 today for a free case evaluation.