Metro Detroit Personal Injury Attorney
Each day our office fields calls from prospective clients who have been injured in a personal injury accident. One of the things we frequently hear is that callers are unaware that the statute of limitations on their case has run (or is about to run), thereby preventing them from filing a claim for damages. It is not easy to inform someone who has been severely injured in a car accident, slip and fall accident, dog bite, or other personal injury accident that their time to file a lawsuit for damages has expired. Hopefully, by increasing awareness as to what the statute of limitations is and how it affects each claim, we can preserve meritorious cases and provide compensation for injured accident victims and their families.
What Is The Statute Of Limitations?
The Statute of Limitations sets forth the maximum time after an event in which legal proceedings can be initiated. After the statute of limitations expires, unless a legal exception applies, the injured party loses the right to file a lawsuit for compensation. Each legislature in each state has determined time periods for when a legal case can begin for each of the various types of cases. Furthermore, each state’s statute of limitations for a given type of case may be different. A car accident victim in Michigan may not have the same amount of time to file a lawsuit as a car accident victim in Florida.
When Does The Statute Of Limitations Begin To Run?
Generally, the statute of limitations accrues when all of the necessary elements of the claim have occurred and can be alleged in a complaint. The statute of limitations may begin to run before the plaintiff even knows of all the evidence necessary to establish the cause of action. As the Michigan Supreme Court said in Weast v Duffie, 272 Mich 354, 359, 262 NW 401 (1935):
“It is not necessary that a party should know the details of the evidence by which to establish his cause of action. It is enough that he knows a cause of action exists in his favor, and when he has this knowledge, it is his own fault if he does not avail himself of those means which the law provides for prosecuting or preserving his claim.”
While the claim does not begin until the plaintiff suffers damages, the extent of the damages is inconsequential. For instance, if you were rear-ended by another driver and suffered back pain, the statute of limitations would begin to run on the date of the car accident (the date when all of necessary elements of the claim have occurred). Even though it may take weeks or months for doctors to arrive at a firm diagnosis of the severity of your injuries, the statute of limitations has already begun to run.
Common Michigan Statute Of Limitations
The statute of limitations for every civil action in Michigan exceeds the scope of this article, however, here are some common Michigan statutes of limitation:
Car Accident: for first-party no-fault benefits, the injured claimant must provide notice to the responsible insurance company within one year of the accident by submitting an application for benefits. For third-party claims alleging negligence against the at-fault driver, the claimant is subject to the three-year statute of limitations that applies to negligence actions. MCL 600.5805(10).
Premises Liability/Slip and Fall: Generally, the plaintiff will rely on the three-year statute of limitations applicable to negligence cases. However, for some slip and fall cases involving injuries that occur on city owned sidewalks, notice requirements may apply that if ignored, would bar the claim.
Dog Bite Attack: Again, the plaintiff will rely on the three-year statute of limitations for actions alleging negligence or injury to person or property.
Dram Shop Actions: An action against a retail licensee that unlawfully serves alcoholic beverages to an intoxicated person or a minor, resulting in injury, death or property damage must be commenced within two-years after the injury or death. Additionally, there is a 120-day written notice provision that applies to these cases.
Slander/Libel: A one-year statute of limitation applies to actions alleging libel or slander. MCL 600.5805(9).
Medical Malpractice: Generally, there is a two-year statute of limitations for actions alleging medical malpractice, as well as strict 182 Notice of Intent requirement. Medical malpractice cases have many exceptions that could apply and should be considered.
There are a few narrow exceptions that could apply if the statute of limitations on your claim has expired. For instance, the statute of limitations may be “tolled” or stopped for minority or insanity. However, it is best to consult with an experienced attorney as soon as possible or risk having the statute of limitations bar your claim for damages entirely.