Like most things in life, personal injury claims have an expiration date.
Something called the “statute of limitations” sets the deadline for filing suit.
In Washington, the general rule is that you have three years after you get hurt to file suit.
But like anything involving the law, there are all sorts of exceptions.
Here are the claims that have a shorter fuse:
Claim Against Tribe
Tribes are sovereign nations. They have their own laws. Some of them have very short statutes of limitation (or claim filing requirements).
If you get hurt on a cruise ship you have six months to make a written claim and one year to file suit.
Claim Against Federal Government
The federal government is very formalistic. It also has a comparatively short statute of limitations. You have two years to bring your claim against the United States.
Where’s the line drawn between intentional and negligent conduct? It’s a question that comes up in a lot of cases. But the statute of limitations for intentional torts like battery is only two years.
And others that have a longer fuse (or no fuse):
Underinsured Motorist Claims
The statute of limitations on written contract claims in Washington is six years. An action under a UIM policy is a contract claim.
When does the statute begin running on a UIM claim: When the injury occurred or whether it became clear that the insured and insurer could not reach an agreement about the value of the claim?
I think there’s a good argument that it’s when it became clear there was not going to be an agreement (and the insurer arguably breached its obligations under the contract of insurance).
The statute of limitations does not start running on a childhood injury until the child turns 18. Then the child (now adult) has an additional three years to bring his claim.
(The rules for childhood medical malpractice claims are different and harsher.)
Childhood Sexual Abuse
Washington has probably the best childhood sexual abuse statute of limitations in the country. This is how it reads:
All claims or causes of action based on intentional conduct brought by any person for recovery of damages for injury suffered as a result of childhood sexual abuse shall be commenced within the later of the following periods:
(a) Within three years of the act alleged to have caused the injury or condition;
(b) Within three years of the time the victim discovered or reasonably should have discovered that the injury or condition was caused by said act; or
(c) Within three years of the time the victim discovered that the act caused the injury for which the claim is brought.
Basically a victim of childhood sexual abuse can bring a claim at any time as long as they have realized/appreciated within the last three years that a challenge in their life relates back to having been abused as a kid.
The statute of limitations is also tolled (basically put-on hold) if a person is so disabled that he or she can’t understand the nature of the personal injury claim/proceeding.
If you’re in a coma for a week then seven days should be added to your statute of limitations.
All this is complicated. Maybe even Byzantine.
If you have questions about whether you have time to pursue a claim let me know. I’m happy to answer them.