One of the most important laws to know as someone considering filing a personal injury case is New Jersey’s statute of limitations. This is a strict deadline for filing; missing it generally means also missing the chance to recover compensation for your injuries. Learn your statute of limitations on a personal injury case to make sure you file on time.
Statutes of limitations exist on both criminal and civil cases. In criminal law, a statute of limitations restricts a prosecutor’s ability to file criminal charges against a suspect to a certain amount of time after the commission of a crime. In civil law, a statute of limitations creates a deadline for an injured party to file a claim against the party he or she believes is at fault or financially responsible. Statutes of limitations are different in every state.
Statutes of limitations have two key benefits. The first is to keep the justice system just. Without a statute of limitations pressuring a plaintiff to act quickly, he or she could intentionally wait until important evidence in the defendant’s defense has been destroyed or disappeared. This would not be fair to the defendant. The second benefit is maintaining a more efficient justice system by encouraging prompt claims filing.
The New Jersey Revised Statutes section 2A:14-2(a) is the state’s statute of limitations on personal injury cases. According to this law, you have no more than two years from the date of your accident to file a personal injury claim, in most cases. This rule applies to both negligence claims and intentional torts, such as physical assault and battery. It applies to:
If you do not discover your injury immediately after an accident – such as the delayed diagnosis of a whiplash injury after a car accident – the courts will extend your deadline to two years from the date of injury diagnosis or the date you reasonably should have discovered your injury. The discovery rule is the most common exception to the personal injury statute of limitations.
With very few exceptions, if you miss your statute of limitations to file a personal injury case, the courts in your county will refuse to hear the complaint. Most courts bar plaintiffs from pursuing recovery if they try to file after the deadline has already passed. Even if the courts agree to process your claim, the defendant in your personal injury case will most likely use the expired statute of limitations as a defense against liability, leading the courts to dismiss your case.
Some circumstances may toll, or pause, the clock on your deadline to file, extending your legal window. Other situations may shorten your opportunity, making it even more important to take prompt legal action. Common exceptions to the rule are:
The best way to determine your exact timeline to file a personal injury case in New Jersey is by consulting with an attorney. A local personal injury lawyer can review the facts of your particular case to let you know how soon you must file.
Speak to an attorney without delay after any type of accident in New Jersey. Acting quickly can not only ensure you meet your deadline but also help you build a stronger case, while key evidence is still available and important details are still fresh in your mind.