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What is a Statute of Limitations in a Personal Injury Case?

Statute of Limitations in Peabody, MA

The statute of limitations in Massachusetts is the deadline by which an injury claim must be settled with an insurance company or a personal injury lawsuit filed in court. If you believe you have a legitimate personal injury after any kind of accident, you need to be wary of your state’s deadline.

If you miss this important deadline, you lose your chance to recover the damages incurred from your vehicular accident or injury—our trusted personal injury attorney at The Law Offices of Barry Feinstein & Affiliates P.C. has handled thousands of claims successfully and recovered millions for their clients. If you’re looking for an attorney to help your case, give their personal injury law firm a call!

In this article, we’ll cover the following topics:

  • What you need to know about the statute of limitations
  • What is the statute of limitations in Massachusetts?
  • Are there exemptions to the statute of limitations?
  • What if you fail to meet the deadline?
  • What is the discovery rule?
  • Where can you find a personal injury attorney?

A personal injury lawyer from Peabody MA can advise you on how your personal injury case statute of limitations may influence your tort claim. If you or a loved one has been injured after an accident, call The Law Offices of Barry Feinstein & Affiliates P.C. for a free and confidential consultation right away.

What You Need to Know about the Statute of Limitations

Here is a short list of important information about statutes of limitations.

  • A statute of limitations is state legislation that establishes a short window of time during which you may bring a personal injury claim.
  • If you attempt to file a lawsuit after the applicable statute of limitations period has passed, the court will most certainly dismiss your case, and you will have lost your right to seek court-ordered compensation for your personal injuries and related losses.
  • The deadline for filing may be extended in a handful of exceptional cases, such as when the victim was still a minor (18 years of age) at the time of the accident.
  • An insurance adjuster keeps an eye on the deadline for filing a lawsuit related to your insurance claim, and you should too.

What is the Statute of Limitations in a Personal Injury Case in Massachusetts?

You have three years from the time of an injury to file a lawsuit in Massachusetts, whether your case is motivated by the principle of liability of “negligence” (which applies to claims that are filed after most accidents) or intentional tort, as outlined in section 2A of Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 260.

Exemptions to the Personal Injury Statute of Limitations in Massachusetts

Due to many unforeseeable events, Massachusetts identified cases where an injured person will be allowed to pause the running Statute of Limitations on their case, including

    • When the injured person is a minor, or under 18 years during the time of the accident or deemed incapacitated by reason of mental illness. According to the Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 260, section 7, those who find themselves under this scenario are entitled to the entire three years upon reaching 18 years old or having their competence restored.
    • When the person who caused injuries resides outside Massachusetts state. Per the Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 260 section 9, the period of absence will not be counted as part of the three-year filing period.
  • When the person who caused injuries “fraudulently conceals” liability or prevents the injured from filing a lawsuit. Under the Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 260 section 12, if the injured person were forced to realize they do not have the right to file a lawsuit against the person responsible for the injuries, the time during the fraud/concealment will not be counted as part of the three-year filing period.

If you have any concerns about how the Massachusetts statute of limitations relates to your personal injury case, mainly if the deadline is near or has already passed, you should consult an experienced Massachusetts personal injury attorney immediately.

The “Discovery Rule” Statute of Limitations Exception

The “discovery rule” is a common exception to the standard “statute of limitations” deadline in personal injury cases in most states. In general, the discovery rule extends the filing period in cases where the injured person was unaware (and did not have any reasonable basis for knowing) that:

  • They were injured or
  • That the potential defendant’s actions could have brought on the injury.

As unusual as it may seem, this circumstance is not rare.

An Example of the Discovery Rule

Massachusetts has a standard three-year statute of limitations for personal injury cases. Still, it also has a discovery rule that states that its statute of limitations for personal injury cases doesn’t start running until the date the plaintiff: 

  1. Had knowledge or had enough notice that they were injured; and 
  2. Had knowledge or had enough notice of what caused the injury.

Let’s imagine that asbestos was used to insulate the pipelines in your house. Twenty years later, you got mesothelioma, a type of lung cancer caused only by asbestos. Your doctor inquires as to whether you have asbestos in your home. Testing confirms that the pipes in your basement are insulated with asbestos, indicating that your home insulation has been exposed and airborne for the whole time you’ve lived there.

Because the statute of limitations deadline has most likely expired (although your lawyer may assert that continued exposure equates to ongoing harm), the discovery rule may be the only means you can file a lawsuit for personal injury based on your asbestos exposure. Your defense would thus argue that the “clock” of the statute of limitations didn’t start ticking until the day that your doctor informed you that asbestos exposure was the cause of your lung cancer.

In many types of personal injury claims, relying on the “discovery” rule is not an option (like those from dog bites or car accidents). However, in addition to the asbestos example, the rule may legally come into play in medical malpractice and product liability cases (which involve dangerous and defective products).

What Happens If I Fail to Meet the Filing Deadline?

If you file a lawsuit more than three years after the underlying accident, the defendant (this is the person that you are suing) will most likely make a “motion to dismiss” and bring this matter to court.

Unless you fall under one of the few exceptions that would allow the court to grant you extra time, your case will be summarily dismissed. At that point, you have no legal recourse to seek compensation from the defendant for your personal injuries, regardless of how severe they are or how glaring the liability of the defendant may be.

The Massachusetts statute of limitations in a personal injury case is clearly essential if you wish to take your injury case to court through a formal lawsuit; however, the filing date imposed by this law is also important in a personal injury settlement negotiation with the defendant and their insurance company. Once the three-year deadline has gone, you will have no bargaining power, and the phrase “I’ll see you in court” will be nothing more than a useless threat.

Get Help from our Massachusetts Personal Injury Lawyer!

Personal injury law can be quite strict. Any time you’re involved in vehicular or even pedestrian accidents in Massachusetts, you must know how the statute of limitations affects any potential legal action you take. The statute of limitations becomes critical when your injuries are severe, and it seems that the at-fault party or the insurance company will not make a fair settlement offer.

It is in your best interest to discuss the details of your case with an experienced Massachusetts personal injury attorney to explore your legal options and protect your rights.

Individuals and families who have suffered serious losses because of the negligence or wrongdoing of others are the people we advocate for. Our team of personal injury attorneys has a firm grasp of insurance companies’ mentality and opposing lawyers’ mentality.

We treat every personal injury case as if it were going to trial, and we will not back down from taking a case all the way to a jury verdict in Massachusetts if that is what it takes to get you the best possible outcome. Reach out to The Law Offices of Barry Feinstein & Affiliates P.C. right now to speak with a personal injury lawyer serving Peabody, Massachusetts, and surrounding areas!


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