Missouri Personal Injury Statute of Limitations
A statute of limitations sets a time limit for filing a legal claim. For example, if you’re in an auto accident in Missouri, you generally have five years to sue the other driver in civil court for compensation for your injuries or other losses. Missouri lawmakers determined that was enough time to become aware of your injuries and resulting damages and pursue appropriate remedies.
Statutes of limitations aren’t always so straightforward. Depending on your specific type of personal injury action, your deadline to initiate a lawsuit can change. Additionally, certain exceptions might apply in rare instances. Therefore, it’s important to speak with a Missouri personal injury lawyer who can advise you about the complexities of time restrictions applicable to your case. An attorney can ensure you meet the deadline to file a lawsuit and protect your rights by helping you retain the ability to recover compensation for your harms caused by someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing.
Missouri's Statutes of Limitations Concerning Personal Injury, Wrongful Death, and Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
In Missouri, you have a five-year deadline starting from the date the personal injury accident or incident occurred to file a civil lawsuit. The law offers very few exceptions. If your five years have recently passed, you may still be in the window of opportunity. You must speak with a personal injury attorney who can give you appropriate legal advice about your current eligibility to sue.
Additionally, there might be other applicable time restrictions based on your particular type of case. For instance, you have three years to sue for the wrongful death of a family member. The “clock” starts on the date of your loved one’s passing rather than the date of the accident that resulted in their life-threatening injuries. Likewise, if you suffer an injury due to medical malpractice, Missouri’s applicable statute of limitations gives you just two years to initiate a lawsuit.
It’s important not to rely on your own understanding of the statutes. Instead, contact an attorney with the knowledge and expertise to advise you on your legal options and your present ability to pursue compensation.
Exceptions to Missouri's Personal Injury Statutes of Limitations
Minors can’t file lawsuits on their own. If their parents don’t sue on their behalf before they reach the age of majority, the statute of limitations starts when injured children turn 21, at which time they’ll have two years to file a lawsuit.
Mentally incapacitated people also are not eligible to file personal injury lawsuits (a guardian may sue for them). If a time comes when their disability resolves, or a court finds them to be legally competent, they have three years from the date of declared competency to file their legal action.
The final exception can be somewhat complicated. If a Missouri resident or nonresident harms you and leaves Missouri after the accident but before you sue and prior to the expiration of the initial statute of limitations, under state law, the time limit to file your lawsuit pauses until they return to the state.
What happens if I miss the deadline to file my personal injury claim in Missouri?
If you miss your filing deadline for a personal injury claim, the defendant will likely move to dismiss your case, and the court can forever time bar you from receiving compensation.
In the case of Love v. Piatchek, No.103690 (November 8, 2016), a family couldn’t pursue compensation for the wrongful death of their son Darrell Williams who was in a car with friends when the police stopped the vehicle with tire spikes. An officer walked to the car, shooting and killing Mr. Williams on November 18, 2009.
The victim’s grandmother filed a wrongful death suit in January 2010. She called herself his “next of kin” because both of Williams’ parents were in jail. The grandmother dropped her lawsuit in April 2014, and Williams’ parents filed a new one in August 2014. The defendant moved to dismiss the court case stating that its filing exceeded the allowed deadline per the statute of limitations. The parents tried to argue that their suit connected back to the grandmother’s action and should go forward.
The judge ruled that since the grandmother was not the proper person to sue, the statute of limitations had expired before the parents got out of jail. Unfortunately, the grandmother’s lawsuit may have been transferable to the parents had she not dismissed it just months prior. Therefore, the court dismissed the parents’ case and barred them from recovering compensation for their son’s untimely death.
The personal injury attorneys at NST Law can help ensure that you don’t miss the statute of limitations relevant to your specific case and preserve your opportunity to recover compensation. The sooner you contact our Missouri offices following your accident or incident causing your injury, the sooner we can evaluate your case, gather the necessary evidence, and determine your legal options to get you compensated timely.
What is the Discovery Rule, and how does it apply to Missouri personal injury claims?
The Discovery Rule applies primarily in medical malpractice cases when the injured person is not aware of their injury until some time after the negligent act by a medical professional resulting in harm and damages. In that instance, you would have two years from the date of discovery of the alleged negligence or from the date you should have reasonably discovered the alleged negligence, whichever is sooner.
You shouldn’t rely on this exception to the statute of limitations because there are a lot of nuances involved that could still potentially lead to your lawsuit being time-barred. Contact a personal injury, wrongful death, or medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible to learn if your case is still within the timeframe to file.
Why do Missouri courts limit the time to file a lawsuit?
Statutes of limitations date back to ancient Greece when all crimes except murder fell subject to a five-year window. Colonists brought these same common law limits over to the states from English courts, which began implementing the same around the 17th century. When adopted by state governments, these statutes became a part of our modern-day legal system.
The idea behind time-barring legal actions is to preserve evidence, thereby enacting true justice. After many years, evidence can be lost or tainted, leading to an unfair advantage for either side. Witnesses’ memories can become faulty over time, resulting in non-credible testimonies and an inability to establish a solid case. The fairness of the court system relies on both parties having equal and adequate access to supporting evidence or defenses so as not to inhibit their ability to assert their claims or defend against the same.
Lastly, many believe that requiring someone to defend their distant past is on its face unfair, especially in civil matters, having the potential to result in unjust or inequitable verdicts.
NST Law's Missouri Personal Injury Lawyers Can File Your Lawsuit Timely
The attorneys at NST Law show commitment to their work and compassion to their clients, ensuring we always strive to perform excellently and serve our clients’ best interests by protecting their legal rights. Due to our tireless dedication to our community in and out of the courtroom, NST Law has succeeded in recovering over $1.5 billion for injured clients in verdicts and settlements over the past three decades.
If you suffered an injury or other losses due to someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing, contact our Missouri offices today for a free consultation so that we have substantial time to properly evaluate your case and pursue fair compensation for your harm.