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What Are the Time Limits for Filing a Personal Injury Claim in St. Louis?

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How Can Missouri’s Statute of Limitations Impact Your Ability to Seek Compensation for a Personal Injury?

Understanding and adhering to Missouri’s statute of limitations is crucial for ensuring that your personal injury claim is filed within the allowed time frame and has a chance to be heard in court. Negotiating or settling your claim may not be possible if it is no longer legally viable due to missing the filing deadline. Consulting with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney can make it easier to navigate these complexities and ensure that your case is handled effectively within the bounds of the state’s statute of limitations.

What is a Statute of Limitations and Why is it Enforced?

A statute of limitations is a state law that defines the maximum time following an event within which legal proceedings may be initiated. These limits are in place for both civil and criminal actions. When the specified time under a statute of limitations runs out, individuals can generally no longer file a valid claim. If a plaintiff attempts to file a claim after the statute of limitations has expired, the case may be subject to dismissal by the court. In these situations, the defendant or their legal team may raise the defense that the claim is time-barred due to having been filed too late. If the judge agrees, the case will not be allowed to continue.

A statute of limitations aims to protect potential defendants from unfair legal action. Over time, evidence may be lost or become less reliable, and witnesses’ memories may fade, making it difficult to achieve a fair trial. The statute of limitations ensures that all claims are made while evidence remains relatively fresh.

What Are the Time Limits Placed on Missouri Personal Injury Cases By State Law?

Mo. Rev. Stat. § 516.120 addresses the statute of limitations for personal injury claims. According to this statute, individuals generally have five years from the date of the injury to file a lawsuit in civil court. However, some specific types of personal injury cases are subject to different state laws that can shorten the amount of time you have to file, including:

  • Medical malpractice: The deadline to file for medical malpractice cases is two years from the date of negligence. However, the discovery rule applies to cases where a foreign object was left inside the body or a medical provider negligently failed to inform a patient of essential test results. Under this rule, the patient has two years to file a claim from the date of the discovery of the negligence or from the time when they should have discovered the negligence through ordinary care.
  • Wrongful death: If an individual dies due to injuries from an incident and would have been eligible to file a personal injury claim if they had lived, then certain family members may have the right to file a wrongful death claim. For wrongful death cases, Missouri’s statute of limitations is three years after the cause of action.
  • Personal injury claims involving government employees or entities: The time limits for personal injury claims against government agencies or employees are significantly shortened. In these cases, Missouri law requires that claims be filed within 90 days of the incident.
  • Workers’ compensation claims: If you were injured on the job and your employer participates in the state’s workers’ compensation program, you will likely be unable to file a claim against them in civil court unless an unusual circumstance exists. Instead, you will have two years from the date of your injury to file a workers’ compensation claim.

Do Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations Exist?

While Missouri civil courts strictly enforce the state’s statute of limitations on personal injury claims, the law does provide some leeway for exceptions when specific situations arise. In these rare circumstances, the statute of limitations may be tolled. During this tolling period, the countdown to the end of the allowed filing period is paused until there is a change and the clock can be restarted. It’s vital to consult with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney who can provide further guidance if you believe one of the following exceptions may apply to your case:

  • Plaintiff was under 18 years old at the time of the accident: Because minors cannot file a lawsuit on their own behalf, the statute of limitations is tolled until they reach the age of majority.
  • Plaintiff was mentally incapacitated: Mental incapacitation due to injury or disability can affect the statute of limitations on a claim. Once an individual is declared mentally competent, they typically have five years to pursue a personal claim.
  • Defendant left the state or could not be located: The tolling of the statute of limitations in this situation ensures that liable individuals cannot avoid responsibility by moving or going into hiding.

How Can an Experienced St. Louis Personal Injury Lawyer Assist You?

An accident can cause severe financial strain on you and your loved ones. You do not want to lose your right to seek damages from the liable party. You must meet the relevant filing deadlines for your case to recover the compensation you are eligible to receive after an injury, such as lost wages, medical bills, and pain and suffering damages. Consulting with a skilled lawyer as soon as possible after your accident can help you make certain you are on track to building a strong claim. However, even if you believe the statute of limitations may be rapidly approaching or has lapsed, it can be beneficial to discuss your case with a lawyer who can determine if any exceptions may apply to your claim that could extend the time you have to file.

If you’ve been hurt in an accident due to someone else’s negligence, Jett Accident & Injury Lawyers can help you navigate the claims process and ensure you adhere to the state’s statute of limitations and other key laws. Contact our law office today at 314-501-9509 or complete this online form to schedule a free case review.

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