If you have been injured due to a situation that was no fault of your own, you might be researching the potential compensation to which you may be entitled. While it is true that you should seek reimbursement for personal financial stress you have experienced due to the negligence of another, the ability to pursue such a claim has a time limit, referred to as the personal injury statute of limitations. Your lawsuit will likely be dismissed if you do not file before your time limit has expired, so it’s always a good idea to consult with a personal injury attorney to make sure you know your rights under the law.
Reasoning Behind Statutes of Limitations
You may think laws are designed to protect victims, so why were statutes of limitations created to limit the amount of time an individual has to file a lawsuit? Time limits are imposed on claims to make sure justice is served and fairness is given to both parties. If an unlimited amount of time was allowed to pass, the defending party could experience a great deal of disadvantages because evidence could be difficult to collect. Additionally, a longer time period means the greater likelihood that evidence could be lost. Witnesses could also become less reliable over time due to fading memories. If you are planning to file a lawsuit for a personal injury claim, the time to act is sooner rather than later.
Types of Personal Injury Claims and Associated Time Limits
The statute of limitations in NJ is multi-faceted and depends on the type of personal injury you experienced. Any type of injury can be devastating to your personal finances and to your livelihood, so you want to make sure you are protected in the long term. Although not an all-encompassing list, these are some of the most common types of personal injury claims:
- Slip and fall: If you are injured on someone else’s property, at work, at school, at a hospital or a similar location and feel you can prove negligence on the part of the property owner, you could potentially file a slip-and-fall lawsuit. Slip-and-falls are a very specific type of injury under the law.
- Motor vehicle accident: A common cause of personal injury claims, motor vehicle accidents caused by reckless, careless or negligent driving can lead to physical and financial distress. This includes accidents that take place in cars and trucks as well as non-personal vehicles.
- Medical malpractice: A medical malpractice lawsuit typically involves negligence by a physician or other health care provider. Sometimes these injuries can take longer to become apparent or could be revealed to be caused by malpractice at a later time.
- Wrongful death: When another individual’s reckless, careless, negligent or even deliberate actions lead to a death, a wrongful death suit can be brought forth. Examples include occupational hazards, car or bicycle accidents or improper business property security measures. Murder cases can also hold the ability for a wrongful death lawsuit.
- Product liability: Household products are required to be designed for consumer safety, so if these safety measures fail or were designed poorly resulting in an injury product liability claims can come into play. Another example of product liability is insufficient labeling of hazards on dangerous materials.
In New Jersey, all of the above situations come with a two-year statute of limitations beginning with the time the injury, accident, death or other event took place. Other types of personal or financial injury claims have different time limits, so consulting with a reputable attorney is key to making sure your lawsuit is timely. Examples include legal malpractice, nursing home negligence and slander/libel claims.
Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations
Although the typical personal injury statute of limitations in NJ dates two years from the date of the injury, some exceptions to the rule apply. One such exception is in the event of a personal injury of a minor. Since a minor cannot file a claim on his or her own behalf, a parent or guardian must file a claim instead. This sometimes does not take place, so instead of imposing a two-year limit from the date of the injury event, the statute of limitations clock begins on the minor’s 18th birthday and lasts for two years from that point.
Another exception to the typical two-year statute of limitations is in the case of medical malpractice that goes undiscovered until a later date. If an injury is determined to be caused by malpractice, the two-year time limit begins on the date the malpractice was or should have been discovered, regardless of how long ago the injury actually occurred. Birth injuries are very specific medical malpractice cases and have their own statute of limitations. An individual who was born prior to July 2004 still has until two years after his or her 18th birthday to file a birth injury claim. However, anyone born after July 2004 only has until age 13 to pursue a birth injury lawsuit.
Other exceptions to the standard statute of limitations exist. The advice to contact an attorney specializing in personal injury claims still stands for any type of personal injury case.
How To Pursue a Personal Injury Claim in New Jersey
Any time an injury occurs due to the carelessness or negligence of another, it is always a good idea to seek the advice and counsel of an experienced personal injury law firm. Start gathering any information you think you will need to bring evidence to your claim in advance of your first meeting with an attorney. The laws surrounding the statute of limitations on personal injury cases are not always easy to maneuver, and you want to make sure you file any necessary claims in a timely manner. Even if you think you have passed the allowable time limit, seek out legal advice in case your situation falls under one of the exceptions to the rule in New Jersey.
The attorneys at Costello Law Firm are ready to assist you with your personal injury claim. Contact them today to learn more about the pursuit of the compensation to which you may be entitled after suffering from an injury due to the negligence of another party.
Chris Costello, ESQ.
Chris handles matters in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania and is an active member of the New Jersey Association for Justice as well as the Burlington County Bar Association. As a Burlington County personal injury lawyer, Mr. Costello has served as chairman of the Burlington County Bar Association Personal Injury Committee and lectured on topics related to auto accidents and insurance law.
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