Texas’ statutes of limitations for filing a lawsuit are especially strict. This past week, on May 19th, 2017, the Texas Supreme Court denied a multimillion dollar lawsuit on the grounds that it was simply filed too late.
In Town of Dish v. Atmos, the entire town of Dish, TX gathered to sue the natural gas companies who run a pipeline near their homes. Their claim was that the noise and smells coming from the pipeline facilities were making their lives miserable and ruining their property value. They started complaining about these issues and sending letters asking them to stop in 2006, but did not file for a lawsuit until 2011. The Court found that their claims were just too late and barred them from recovery.
When something bad happens to you, it is important to protect your rights and act quickly. The sooner you speak to a lawyer about your case, the better your chance of getting into court. The Dallas personal injury lawyers at The Queenan Law Firm, P.C., understand how statutes of limitations work in Texas, and understand the urgency of getting your claim filed on time. Do not be afraid to talk to a lawyer about your case right away – we offer free consultations to help you get your case moving quickly and easily.
Texas Statutes of Limitations for Personal Injury
A “statute of limitations” is the name of the rule that limits how long you have to file a lawsuit. Different areas of the law have different time limits, but the usual limit is two years. This means that you must get your lawsuit filed with the proper court within two years. From there, you have plenty of time to amend and sharpen your legal claims through various “complaints” and “amended complaints” you file with the court. You also may be entitled to have your lawyer receive documents, ask questions, and interview people related to the case to help gather evidence. Just because your case is not perfect does not mean you should wait to act – talk to an attorney right away.
Most cases in Texas, especially personal injury cases, car accident cases, and other cases based on negligence, must be filed within two years of the incident, according to Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 16.003(a). For something like the nuisance claim in Town of Dish, even though the noise and odors were ongoing problems, they were expected to file their case within two years of when the noise and odors became a problem. The same is true for an injury case. Just because you are still hurt and still dealing with your injuries three or four years after the accident does not mean a court will take your case. It is vital to get your case in as soon as possible.
More specifically, § 16.003(a) states that you the suit must be brought “not later than two years after the day the cause of action accrues.” “Accrual” typically means the date you were injured, and realized you were injured. In a case for wrongful death of a loved one, the accrual date is the date of their death (which may be later than the date of the injury). However, Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 74.251(a) states that in a medical malpractice lawsuit, the claim must be filed within two years of the negligent medical treatment – not the date of death.
Extending the Statute of Limitations in Texas
There are some rules that may extend the deadlines under Texas law. Sometimes, when the cause of your injury or complaint is undiscoverable, you may be given an extension that allows you to file your case after you discover the facts. This is known as the “discovery rule.”
For the cause of your injury to be “undiscoverable,” you must not be able to understand that you were injured and that it was someone else’s fault. If you turn a blind eye to the situation and fail to investigate, this will not activate the discovery rule. If you could have discovered the cause through reasonable investigation (“due diligence”), then the cause of action will be considered discoverable. Alternatively, if the facts are not discoverable because someone is actively hiding them from you or lying to you, your deadline may be extended.
It may sound strange to think your injury could be undiscoverable, but it is relatively common. Especially in cases that involve a complicated injury or medical condition, you may not know you have the condition until you are diagnosed by a doctor. For instance, in medical malpractice cases based on instruments left inside the patient, the patient may feel pain but have no idea that there are objects inside until they seek further medical attention.
Other things, like being under 18 years old or having a mental handicap, might also extend your deadline to file. It would be unfair to expect these groups to fully understand their legal claims and the associated rules with such a strict deadline.
Dallas Personal Injury Attorneys
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, talk to an attorney right away. Because your case might have important deadlines to follow, seek legal assistance as early in the process as you can. The Queenan Law Firm, P.C., offers free consultations to help new clients understand whether they have a case and when they need to file. Call (817) 476-1797 today for a free consultation with our attorneys.