A statute of limitations is basically the length of time a person (or the police) has to take legal action about an issue. Statutes of limitation can vary depending on location and the nature of the issue.
Personal Injury claims in Texas
The default statute of limitations for personal injury claims in Texas is two years from the date of the event which caused the injury. There are, however, three potential exceptions to this.
The first is if the claimant is suffering from a “legal disability”. Anyone under the age of 18 is automatically considered to be under a legal disability, even if they are married. Other examples of legal disability include being of unsound mind and serving in the U.S. Armed Forces at a time of war. The second is if the defendant leaves the state of Texas.
The third is if the “discovery rule” applies. This rule basically means that the statute of limitations is judged from the point when the issue was, or should have been, discovered. The discovery rule can apply in personal injury cases (and medical malpractice cases) if the person’s injury only becomes apparent after the incident which caused it.
Personal Injury claims across the U.S.
The statute of limitations for personal injury claims in Texas is in line with the U.S. average. Almost half of U.S. states (24) have a statute of limitations of two years for personal injury cases. Another 16 have a statute of limitations of three years.
Of the rest, three states have a statute of limitations of one year (Kentucky, Louisiana, and Tennessee). The others all have a statute of limitations of four, five, or six years.
Other statutes of limitations in Texas
Texas has different statutes of limitation for different types of issues. In civil law, the statutes of limitation are generally as follows.
- Libel, slander, and malicious prosecution – one year
- Claims relating to personal or property rights (torts) – two years
- Claims relating to contractual disputes – four years
The statute of limitations on criminal acts can be indefinite.
The logic behind the statute of limitations
There’s an old saying that “justice delayed is justice denied”. The logic behind having a statute of limitations is to encourage people to pursue cases in a timely manner. There are two key advantages to having cases heard quickly. The first is that witnesses and evidence are more likely to be available. The second is that it allows everyone involved to move on.
For this reason, judges will almost certainly summarily dismiss any case raised after the statute of limitations has expired, no matter how strong its merits or how compelling the evidence. There may be a very few, very limited exceptions to this. These could be worth pursuing. On the whole, however, you should assume that the statute of limitations will always apply.
In criminal law, it is possible for a statute of limitations to be indefinite. Even in criminal law, however, this generally only applies in the most serious of cases.