Personal injuries can have far-reaching consequences, and when someone’s negligence or wrongful actions cause harm, pursuing a personal injury claim can provide compensation and justice. However, if you’re considering taking legal action in St. Louis, it’s crucial to be aware of the statute of limitations for personal injury cases in Missouri. Understanding these legal time limits is essential, and in this guide, we’ll delve into the statute of limitations and how a St. Louis personal injury lawyer can assist you.
What Is the Statute of Limitations?
The statute of limitations is a legal time limit that dictates how long you have to file a lawsuit after an incident that resulted in personal injury. It’s designed to promote the timely resolution of legal claims and to ensure that evidence and witnesses are still available and reliable.
Missouri’s statute of limitations for personal injury cases is generally outlined in the Revised Statutes of Missouri Section 516.120, which stipulates a five-year time limit. However, there are exceptions and variations depending on the specific circumstances of the case.
Common Statute of Limitations in Missouri
- Personal Injury: In most personal injury cases, the statute of limitations is five years from the date of the incident. This typically includes cases involving car accidents, slip and fall accidents, and other injury-causing incidents.
- Medical Malpractice: Medical malpractice cases have a two-year statute of limitations in Missouri. The clock starts ticking from the date when the alleged malpractice occurred or when it reasonably should have been discovered.
- Product Liability: Product liability cases involving defective products generally follow a five-year statute of limitations from the date of the injury. However, this may vary based on the specific circumstances of the case.
- Wrongful Death: Wrongful death claims in Missouri have a three-year statute of limitations. This time frame begins from the date of the deceased person’s death.
- Injury on Government Property: Claims against government entities, including city or state, usually have a shorter statute of limitations. It’s essential to consult with a St. Louis personal injury lawyer promptly in these cases, as the time frame can be as short as 90 days.
Why Is the Statute of Limitations Important?
Understanding and adhering to the statute of limitations is crucial for several reasons:
- Preservation of Evidence: Over time, evidence can deteriorate, witnesses’ memories can fade, and documents may be lost. A timely lawsuit allows for the preservation of vital evidence.
- Legal Rights: Filing a lawsuit within the statute of limitations is essential to protect your legal rights. Failing to do so may result in your claim being barred, and you’ll be unable to seek compensation.
- Avoiding Dismissal: If you attempt to file a lawsuit after the statute of limitations has expired, the opposing party can file a motion to dismiss, and the court is likely to grant it, effectively ending your case.
- Expiring Coverage: In some cases, insurance coverage may be contingent on filing a claim within a certain time frame. Missing the statute of limitations may result in a loss of potential insurance benefits.
The Discovery Rule
Missouri follows the “discovery rule” for determining the statute of limitations in personal injury cases. This means that the statute of limitations does not start running until the injured party knew or should have known about the injury or its cause.
For instance, in a medical malpractice case, if a patient discovers harm caused by a surgical error several years after the procedure, the statute of limitations would begin when the patient discovered, or should have reasonably discovered, the injury.
The Role of a St. Louis Personal Injury Lawyer
A St. Louis personal injury lawyer plays a critical role in statute of limitations cases:
- Timely Action: An attorney can ensure that you take prompt action to meet the statute of limitations. They will help you calculate the appropriate deadline and file your lawsuit within the time frame.
- Investigation: Personal injury lawyers can conduct a thorough investigation of your case to gather evidence, interview witnesses, and assess liability. This is essential within the limited time frame allowed by the statute of limitations.
- Negotiations: If the other party is willing to settle, your attorney can engage in negotiations to resolve the matter without going to court. This can save time and resources.
- Litigation: In cases where a fair settlement cannot be reached, your attorney will represent you in court and present your case, including evidence, witnesses, and arguments, to seek the compensation you deserve.
Exceptions and Complexities
Missouri’s statute of limitations laws can be subject to exceptions, and some cases may involve complexities that require legal expertise. For instance, if a minor is injured, the statute of limitations may be tolled (delayed) until they reach the age of majority. Cases involving injuries on government property or claims against government entities often have shorter time frames, adding complexity to the process.
Understanding the statute of limitations for personal injury cases in Missouri is crucial for protecting your legal rights and ensuring that you have the opportunity to seek compensation for your injuries. Consult with a St. Louis personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after an incident to determine the applicable time frame and begin the process of pursuing a claim. Time is of the essence in personal injury cases, and taking prompt action can make a significant difference in the outcome of your case.