The law does provide that if someone is injured in an accident because of another person’s negligence, a lawsuit must be filed within a certain period of time. If a lawsuit is not filed within this time period, then any legal claim that the injured person may have is forever barred. This is known as the Statute of Limitations.
In Indiana, most personal injury claims have a statute of limitations of two years. Thus, if a lawsuit is not filed within the two years following an accident, any legal claim that the injured person may have is forever barred. Although many people are aware of this time requirement, I have had a number of cases where the injured person waits until shortly before the expiration of the statute of limitations before they seek the advice of a lawyer.
However, if the crash or incident that caused the injury involved multiple individuals, as in common in trucking accident cases, there may be several corporations that may have legal liability to the injured person. Similarly, if the case involves a fall on a commercial property such as a grocery store or shopping mall, it is not always clear who owned the property where the fall occurred and who had legal responsibility for maintaining it in a safe condition. Thus, waiting until shortly before the statute of limitations expires may make it more difficult to find an attorney who is willing to take the case because it may not be possible to ensure that the responsible persons or corporations are sued.
An exception to the two-year statute of limitations is where the injured person is less than 18 years of age at the time of this injury. In this situation, the two-year statute of limitations does not begin until the child becomes 18 years of age. Thus, for example, a child who is injured in a car crash has until they turn 20 years of age before a lawsuit must be filed against the person who caused their accident. However, this is not true in medical malpractice or product liability claims.
In medical negligence cases, the two-year statute of limitations begins to run when the child becomes 8 years of age. If the child was 8 years old or older at the time of the possible malpractice, the usual two-year statute of limitations applies to the child’s claim. In product liability claims, the age of the child does not matter—a two-year statute of limitations applies in all such cases. As many individuals may not realize that they have a medical negligence or product liability claim, the best advice is to consult an experienced Indiana personal injury attorney as soon as possible after an injury.
Another trap for the unwary, so to speak, in Indiana is something called a Tort Claims Notice. This applies in all cases where an employee of state or local government has caused the injury in question. I will discuss the requirement of a Tort Claims Notice in next week’s blog.