August 23, 2020

What Is a Statute of Limitations?

By Jonathan Damashek

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If you were hurt in an accident, you need to know about the statute of limitations. This is a law constantly hanging over your claim. It’s a time period that controls how long you have to file a lawsuit, and if you don’t file in time, you’re out of luck. By working with an experienced New York personal injury attorney right away, you have someone to calculate the deadline for your case and make sure you file a lawsuit before it’s too late.

To learn more about the statute of limitations and other deadlines you might face during your claim, contact Hecht, Kleeger & Damashek, P.C. at (212) 490-5700 or through the online form. We offer free case reviews.

What is a Statute of Limitations?

A statute of limitations is a deadline. It is how long you have to file a lawsuit. Lawyers often talk about the statute of limitations like a countdown, which starts, can be delayed, can pause, and eventually ends.

Examples of NY Statutes of Limitation

In New York, the statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits and product liability claims is three years. Typically, you have three years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit.

For medical malpractice, you have two years and six months. But there are exceptions. New York applies the discovery rule to specific types of med mal cases, which might give you more time.

For the wrongful death of a relative, you have two years from the date of their passing.

When Does the Statute of Limitations Start?

The statute of limitations begins to run the day your cause of action accrues, which means the day the event that gives you the right to sue happens. In many cases, the day the statute of limitations starts is clear. For example, if you were hurt in a car accident, the countdown starts the day of the crash.

What Happens When the Statute of Limitations Ends?

The statute of limitations is important because once it ends, you no longer have the right to file a lawsuit. If you file a lawsuit after the statute of limitations has run out, the court will dismiss your claim. You’ve run out of time to demand compensation for your injuries.

Tolling the Statute of Limitations

When the statute of limitations begins to run isn’t always straightforward. You might not know you have a cause of action right away. The most common example is medical malpractice. You might not know for weeks or months that a doctor was negligent. Under New York’s discovery rule, which applies to certain types of cases, when the statute of limitations begins is delayed, or “tolled,” until the day you know or reasonably should have known about the negligence that caused you harm.

Tolling can mean the start of the clock is delayed, or the clock is paused for some time. Other causes of tolling include:

Minors: If you were hurt while under 18 years old, then you typically have three years from the date of your 18th birthday to file a lawsuit.
Mental Incompetence: If you or a loved one had been deemed mentally incompetent at the time of the injury, then the clock might not begin to run until you or your relative is considered competent again.
Bankruptcy: If the party that caused your injuries files for bankruptcy, this creates an automatic stay on other legal claims. You have to wait to file until the stay is lifted or the bankruptcy is finalized.

Cases involving municipalities and cases against New York State have significantly shorter statute of limitations than private defendants. Additionally New York City and New York State require that a Notice of Claim be filed within 60-90 days after the accident. Don’t wait to contact a lawyer to discuss these deadlines.

Contact Us to Learn More About NY Statutes of Limitations

A statute of limitations is one of many personal injury laws that impact your rights and options. To learn more about New York personal injury law, call Hecht, Kleeger & Damashek, P.C. at (212) 490-5700 or send us your information through our online form. We want to hear what’s going on. Then, we can offer advice on the best next steps for you and your family. Our philosophy is to act quickly and aggressively in the hopes of recovering maximum compensation for your injuries.