If you are a victim of an injury resulting from a car accident, an unsafe work environment, or medical malpractice, your Indiana personal injury lawyer may have advised you to file a personal injury lawsuit.
However, you need to be aware that there is a limit on the period in which you can file a lawsuit. This specific period is referred to as the statute of limitations, and it varies from state to state. If you do not file your lawsuit within the provided time, you may be barred from seeking compensation for your injuries.
What is the Statute of Limitation for Indiana Personal Injury Claims?
According to the Indiana Code Section 34-11-2-4, the statute of limitation for filing personal injury lawsuits is two years.
In determining which statute of limitations covers your civil action, you have to determine the cause of action. In Indiana, the two years provided by the statute of limitations covers all cases related to lawsuits seeking remedy for injury to a person or character. This includes personal injuries caused by:
- Negligence, including injuries from car accidents and accidents at the workplace
- Injuries caused by intentional torts such as assault
- Defamation, which includes injury to a person’s character
The Discovery of Harm Rule Applies
The two year period provided for filing a personal injury lawsuit starts on the day the injury happened. However, if you are not aware that you suffered harm, the discovery of harm rule applies.
What does this rule say? Let’s look at an example to understand the rule better.
Let’s say you had a medical condition that requires you to undergo a minor surgery. After the successful surgery, your surgeon prescribes a certain medication to help you during the recovery period. However, the surgeon makes a mistake and prescribed the wrong medicine, which causes you to suffer from constant migraines. You continue taking the medication without knowing they are causing the migraines.
However, months later, after numerous visits to the hospital, your doctor decides to do a thorough review of your medical history and discovers you were given the wrong medication for your surgical recovery. Moreover, the doctor points out that the medication has been the cause of your recurring migraines all along.
Although the personal injury occurred immediately when you started taking the medication, your lack of knowledge, in this case, cannot be said to be unreasonable. Therefore, your statute of limitations will begin on the day the doctor informs you of the mistake made by the surgeon.
However, you should note that if you experienced the complications after taking the medication but opted not to seek medical attention for a long-duration, let’s say a few years, your personal injury claim may not be valid based on the statutes of limitation. This means that the discovery delay should be for a reasonable duration.
What Happens When You Miss the Statute of Limitations Deadline?
In case you don’t file a personal injury lawsuit within the two years, you will be barred from seeking compensation.
If you file a lawsuit but the defendant learns that the deadline has passed, he or she has a right to file a motion dismissing your lawsuit based on the statute of limitations law. If the court grants the defendant this dismissal, you won’t be able to negotiate any settlement or take the other party to court. This is why you must file your injury lawsuit as soon as the injury occurs.
Can You Extend the Indiana Personal Injury Statute of Limitations?
Yes, in some instances, it is possible to extend the personal injury statute of limitations.
There are exceptions to the law, which allows for the delay or pausing of the deadline of your personal injury lawsuit. This extension, referred to as tolling, gives you extra time to file a lawsuit. A good example is when the discovery of harm rule applies.
Other instances where the statute of limitations can be extended in Indiana include:
a) In case the personal injury is of a minor
The time limit for a minor who has suffered a personal injury does not start after the accident. Instead, it starts when the minor turns 18.
For instance, if a minor was involved in a car accident and suffered injuries when they were 16, the statute of limitations will be valid until they are 21.
b) Mental incapacitation
If at the time of the injury, the injured party was mentally incapacitated such that they could pursue justice, then the statute of limitations will be tolled until the person is mentally fit again. Even if the disability is physical, for example, if the injury left you in a coma or unconscious, the limitation will be tolled until you regain your physical health.
c) If the defendant becomes a non-resident of Indiana
In case the person responsible for your injuries leaves Indiana and becomes a non-resident before you can file a lawsuit, the statute of limitations will be tolled for the period that the defendant is a non-resident. However, if the defendant has an agent in Indiana who represents him and who can receive the lawsuit papers on their behalf, this exception does not apply.
d) If the defendant conceals their liability
In case the person responsible for your injuries tries to hide their liability, such that you don’t discover it, the limit on the period over which can file your lawsuit will start when you discover the liability.
e) In case the plaintiff is incarcerated
If you, as the victim, are in prison for committing a crime, the clock on the statute of limitations pauses. When you are released, you can pursue your claim.
f) If your claim is against the government
If your personal injury claim is against a county, city, or a government agency, the period to file a claim will not be two years. Personal injury claims against a county or a city are filed within 180 days, while a claim against a state government agency should be filed within 270 days.
g) Product liability claims
According to Indiana IC 34-20-3-1, you have two years to file a personal injury lawsuit caused by product liability. However, there are exceptions when it comes to this claim.
- One exception states that personal injury claims should be filed ten years after the date of the product purchase.
- The other exception is that if the injury occurred at least eight years after you buy the product, you still get two years to file your claim. This applies even if the two years is after the ten-year limitation given for product liability claims.
Don’t wait until it’s too late to file your personal injury claim. If you decide that you need the help of a personal injury attorney, its best to contact them immediately after the injury occurs. This will give the lawyer ample time to conduct investigations and to prepare your case before the statute of limitations expires.
Contacting an attorney even after the deadline for filing a lawsuit has passed is also in your best interest. Your lawyer will advise you if there are exceptions of the statute of limitations that may apply to your case.