Statutes Of Limitations — An Important Personal Injury Clock And How To Stop It

The statute of limitations is an important deadline for both civil and criminal cases in the United States. What is the statute of limitations with regard to your personal injury? And what does it mean if this is tolled? Here's what every victim needs to know. 

What Is the Statute of Limitations?

In general, the statute of limitations is the period during which a plaintiff is permitted to sue a defendant for personal injury. It varies from state to state. For example, Louisiana victims have only one year from the date of the incident to bring a suit. However, North Dakota residents have six years to do the same. 

In general, once the statute of limitations has expired, no further lawsuits may be started. However, there are exceptions to this rule in particular circumstances. For example, specific types of injury may come with their own statute of limitations rules in your state. 

What Is Tolling the Statute of Limitations?

Certain events can stop the clock, as it were, on the statute of limitations. Tolling effectively pauses the passage of time counted toward the statute of limitations. If you have 2 years to start a lawsuit but it is tolled for 6 months, you effectively have 30 months in real time. 

What causes tolling? When a minor is injured, the statute of limitations may be tolled until they reach 18 years old. This is because minors cannot sue others in court due to their age. So the deadline is paused and resumes when they are a legal adult.

In addition, the clock may be stopped if either party in the lawsuit is outside the jurisdiction of the court. This might happen if the liable party leaves the country before you can bring a suit. Similarly, if a person is disabled in a way that makes it impossible to bring a suit, the time frame may be tolled.

Finally, tolling is common when a victim only discovers later that the person harmed them. Perhaps your old employer slandered you, but you didn't learn about it for several years or they fraudulently blame someone else. The court may toll the deadline in fairness to you. 

Where to Learn More

Both the statute of limitations and the ability to toll it are important parts of your case. Find out more about how they affect your specific lawsuit by meeting with a personal injury lawyer in your area.