Every state has certain rules when it comes to civil procedure. You must submit your complaint in a certain way. You must attach your filing fee with your complaint, or your case won't be filed. Your fee must even be made payable to the exact party or your papers will be returned to your accident lawyer. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that the Texas civil courts have strict rules about filing deadlines. These rules are governed by something called the statute of limitations. Texas accident lawyers are very familiar with these laws. The last thing they want to do is see a client lose their chance of compensation because papers were filed a few days or hours too late.
A lot of states give their citizens three (3) or more years to file their civil lawsuit. Texas isn't that generous. Texas has a two-year statute of limitations period. They only give you two (2) years to file your complaint. The two years start on the date of your accident or incident. So, if you get into a car accident on June 1, 2021, you only have until May 31, 2023, to file your lawsuit. If you miss the statute of limitations period by even one day, the court can dismiss your case. Either the judge will dismiss it on their own or the defendants will file a motion asking for it to be dismissed. Rather than risk this happening, it's a good idea to let a skilled accident lawyer handle this for you. This way, you know you won't go beyond the time limit allowed by law. You also know that your attorney will abide by the medical malpractice statute and wrongful death statute in Texas.
Why Do States Have a Statute of Limitations in the First Place?
Some people think it's unfair to impose strict filing deadlines on accident victims. Why should defendants be protected when they're the people who caused your injuries? The courts see things a little differently. They're abiding by the policy behind statutes like this. It really has nothing to do with punishing one party or the other. It really has to do with efficiency and fairness. The courts don't want people to wait three or four years to sue someone. Sure, that gives you the element of surprise. But is that fair? The defendant should at least have an idea that they could be sued. Once several years go by, they forget all about the issue. Or, if it's a situation in which insurance is involved, they naturally assume that they haven't heard anything about it because their insurance company did resolve it. The courts also understand that you can lose evidence over time.
There are legitimate reasons why the courts in Texas limit your filing window to two (2) years from the date of your accident. Some of these reasons include the following:
- The courts don't want the evidence to go stale
- The courts do not feel that defendants should be blindsided
- Judges do not want to see their dockets clogged up with stale claims
- It's in everyone's best interest to resolve the matter quickly
- After two years, witnesses start to disappear and stories change
- There's too great a chance that a party could die, or an insurance company could close if you wait more than two years
Even if you don't think the reasons for the statute of limitations aren't fair, it is what it is. Your Texas accident attorney knows the rules and they'll stick to them. Otherwise, your case will be dismissed.
If You Miss the Filing Deadline, Your Case Will Be Dismissed
Judges give no leniency when it comes to missing the statute of limitations period in Texas. The rules are very clear for a reason. If you don't qualify for an exemption, then the deadline will be firm. Miss it and expect the judge to unilaterally dismiss your case as soon as it is filed.
There are Few Exceptions to this Rule
It seems like whenever you make a mistake in the law, you can always go back and fix it. If you sue somebody but don't serve them properly, you can start over and do it again. If you file for divorce and then change your mind, you can always go back and refile. When it comes to a civil lawsuit, you don't have this luxury. If you don't get your accident lawsuit filed within two (2) years from the date of your incident, that's it. Your chance of pursuing damages will be gone. There's nothing your attorney can do to make things better. They can't call in a favor from a judge as they do on television. Once you run out of time, you're out of time.
Of course, there are some legitimate exceptions to the statute of limitations in Texas. They are few and far between. The courts won't make excuses for anybody. Unless you meet very specific criteria, your case will be dismissed if it's not filed in time. These situations include the following:
- The plaintiff is a minor – in this case, the statute of limitations period won't start until the plaintiff turns eighteen (18)
- the defendant fraudulently avoids being served – In order to sue someone in Texas, you have to properly serve them. If you don't work hard enough to serve them, that's on you. However, if the defendant commits fraud to avoid being served, the statute of limitations period will be placed on hold.
- You are deemed mentally incompetent – If the court deems you mentally incompetent, the statute's period will be extended. It will not start again until you are deemed competent once more.
Your accident attorney in Texas will know if you meet one of these narrow exceptions, If you do, they'll file a motion with the court to have the statutes of limitations period tolled. Otherwise, the clock will continue to run, and you will have to get your lawsuit filed on time.
You Need to Talk to an Experienced Accident Lawyer as Soon as Possible
If you're hurt in any sort of accident in Texas, you only have two (2) years to file suit. That seems like an awful lot of time. All sorts of things can happen over two years. You could meet somebody, fall in love and get married in two years. You can have two children in less than that time. However, time flies really fast when you're approaching a deadline. The closer you get to the statute of limitations deadline, the quicker that time goes by. If you wait too long before you hire a personal injury attorney, it may just be too late.
Rather than risk something like this happening, you should meet with a skilled accident lawyer as soon as you can. Even if you hold off on filing suit, you can at least get started on pursuing your claim. By the time you deal with the insurance company and find out if they're willing to settle, a year or longer can go by. At least you'll be primed and ready if you already have a lawyer.
Call Glenn Law Firm and schedule your free, initial consultation as soon as you can after your injuries. You don't want to back your injury lawyer into a corner. Nor do you want to make their job harder than it already is. Make sure you give them ample time to prepare and file your case. Otherwise, you may end up missing your deadline and seeing your case go up in smoke.