After an accident—whether it’s a slip and fall, dog bite, or car wreck—there’s a sense of urgency to file a personal injury claim, and understandably so. You want to hold the at-fault party responsible as soon as possible, so you can move on with your life.
However, there’s a fine balance you have to strike when it comes to filing your personal injury claim in Texas.
You’ll need to give yourself plenty of time to understand the scope of your injuries and find a team of reputable Dallas personal injury attorneys to represent you. Yet, at the same time, there’s a legal deadline at play (also known as the statute of limitations).
Before we go into the timeline of events that should happen before you file your personal injury claim, let’s take a brief look at Texas law regarding the statute of limitations.
What is the statute of limitations for personal injury claims in Texas?
For those who aren’t well-versed in legal jargon, a “statute of limitations” is a law that sets a deadline on when you can file a lawsuit in court. According to the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code section 16.003, any civil action for “personal injury” must be filed “not later than two years after the day the cause of action accrues.”
To put it in simpler terms: you have exactly (2) two years to file your personal injury claim in Texas.
For example, if you had a slip and fall accident in Dallas on March 25, 2022, you would likely have two years from the date of that accident to file a civil lawsuit. So, your deadline to file would be March 25, 2024.
It’s important to note that several exceptions to this rule exist that can either extend or shorten the filing deadline (more on this in the section below).
What are the Exceptions to the Rule?
Under Texas law, there are special exceptions to the filing deadline rule if your injuries occurred due to the negligence of a government agency or employee. In these instances, the deadline is much shorter and you only have (6) months to send a notice letter on your personal injury claim, or the claim may be barred.
However, you cannot simply sue the government. You must submit a formal claim with the governmental unit that you believe may be responsible for causing your injury and it must include a description of the damage or injury, the time and place of the incident, and a summary account of what happened.
There are also other special circumstances in Texas when the clock might temporarily pause or the deadline might extend. These situations include:
- If the accident victim is a minor, the statute of limitations does not begin to run until they turn 18.
- The statute of limitations can extend beyond the two-year mark if the defendant leaves the state before you can begin legal proceedings.
- If the defendant’s negligence was not known and could not have been discovered during the two-year time period;
- The plaintiff of the personal injury suit has a mental or physical impairment that prevented the filing of the suit within the two-year period; or
- The defendant committed fraud.
An experienced Dallas personal injury attorney can help you determine whether an exception exists and how this might impact your ability to bring forth a lawsuit.
How Fast Should I File My Personal Injury Claim?
Now that you know the specifics of the statute of limitations for personal injury claims, let’s talk about timing. Filing a personal injury claim requires balance. Of course, you want to meet the deadline, but you also want to give yourself plenty of time to understand the full extent of your injuries.
Some injuries are immediately apparent, while others take a while to manifest before you’re able to assess the impact on your life. Remember that minor injuries can become major injuries, requiring future medical bills, long-term care costs, and other financial damages.
If you accept a settlement offer, either from an insurance company or a defendant, you lose your right to receive further compensation. So, before you decide to accept that settlement offer from the insurance adjuster or the defendant, you need to figure out how much compensation you should demand for your injuries.
Yet, the statute of limitations clock is ticking in the background.
That’s why you should consult with a Dallas personal injury attorney as soon as possible. They can help you get the filing process started, gather evidence of your injuries, and ensure you don’t make any damaging decisions regarding your rights to compensation.
What if my deadline expired?
While you want to make sure you take time to gather all the necessary evidence to strengthen your claim, you don’t want to miss the filing deadline.
Texas courts are strict in enforcing the state’s statute of limitations. If you missed the two-year deadline to file your personal injury claim, you’ll most likely lose the right to hold the at-fault party responsible for your injuries—regardless of how significant they may be and regardless of how strong your case is against them.
The person you’re trying to sue will most likely use the missed deadline against you to argue for a “motion to dismiss.” Unless one of the special exceptions we’ve outlined above entitles you to extra time, the Texas civil court system will likely grant their request and dismiss your case.
For this reason, it’s critical to meet with Dallas personal injury attorneys as soon as possible to ensure you have everything you need to file your suit before the deadline.
Ready to Take Action? Our Dallas Personal Injury Attorneys Can Help
Talking about your case with an experienced personal injury lawyer as quickly as possible after the accident is key to getting the legal help you deserve. The personal injury attorneys at The Law Offices of Tim O’Hare are here to help—and the earlier you consult us, the better we can assist with finding evidence and shaping your case.
Don’t miss your chance to get the compensation and justice you deserve. Schedule a free consultation with our team to learn more about your legal rights.