There are a number of important deadlines in personal injury lawsuits. The first and perhaps most important is the statute of limitations. Missing this deadline will bar your claim completely.
Statutes of limitation are laws placing specific time limits on when an individual can file a lawsuit. Different time restrictions apply depending on the legal matter in question--from contract disputes and personal injury to medical malpractice and defective products.
All of these different areas of law have one thing in common: Failing to file suit within the statute of limitations with few exceptions acts as a complete bar to recovery. Consequently, it is vital to understand exactly what limits apply in your case so that your legal rights are preserved.
The time limits that apply in each case depend on various factors, including the type of legal claim, the subject matter of the claim, the plaintiff(s) the defendant(s), in some cases the maturity or mental capacity of the plaintiff.
In general, with the exceptions set forth below, the statute of limitations in personal injury cases is three years from the date of the injury. Personal injury cases usually include a veriety of claims including automobile accidents, medical malpractice, dog bites, slip and fall cases, and many other types of accidents. The same three year time limit applies to each with .
However, it is critically important not to rely on the assumption that you have three years after one of these injuries to file a claim. That is because there are many different rules that apply depending on the party named as a defendant and the capacity of the individual hurt.
-Children/Incapacitated: Special rules apply to children and those who are incapacitated. (NM Stat § 31-1-10) Instead of having three years to file a claim following an injury, they have one year following the "termination of such incapacity" to file the lawsuit. For children that means that they have one year following their 18th birthday to commence the legal action. Therefore if injured children are involved, parents should not wrongly assume that their claim is time barred, even if it has been years since the injury. However, as you will see, there are exceptions to this exception as well.
-Medical Malpractice: There are a number of special rules for medical malpractice claims. patient harmed by medical negligence generally has three years to file suit. However, in medical malpractice cases the special rules for children do not apply the same way (NM Stat § 41-5-13). The New Mexico Medical Malpractice Act alters the time limits when the defendant is a "qualified healthcare provider." In those cases the only special protection for minors is, if they are 6 years old or younger, then they will have until their 9th birthday to file suit. In other words, if a child is hurt by medical negligence when they are 4 years old, they will have 5 years (until their 9th birthday) to file suit. However, if a child is hurt when they are older than 6, then they only have the same three years to file--the statute is not tolled.
-Against Government: Many very restrictive rules apply in most legal claims where a government entity (or public employee) is named as a defendant. Most importantly, a party generally has to give notice (Tort Claims Notice) of the claim within 90 days of the incident to a designated official for the public entity to be named. This is a short time-window, meaning those who have a suit potentially involving a public entity must act quickly to preserve their rights. Assuming that the 90 day notice was given, plaintiffs then only have two years after the incident to file suit. The only exception applies to children under 7 years old, who will always have until their 9th birthday in which to file suit (similar to the medical malpractice rule) (NM Stat § 41-4-15).
Considering the complexity of some of these timing rules it is absolutely essential for those hurt by the misconduct of others to visit with an experienced accident and injury attorney as soon as possible to ensure the right to seek redress is not lost.