This is the next post in a series of articles discussing the basics of personal injury cases in Laredo and elsewhere in Texas. The previous post focused on methods of establishing the defendant’s liability in a personal injury case. Experienced counsel can help investigate the incident, conduct discovery and preserve evidence to assist with this process. In this article, I will address another important concept in personal injury cases: how failing to pursue your legal claims within the applicable statute of limitation may impact your ability to recover. If you or a loved one have suffered a serious personal injury, contact my office today to speak with an attorney.
A statute of limitations defines the amount of time in which a lawsuit must be filed after an incident giving rise to a cause of action occurs. If a case is not filed within the applicable time period, a victim can totally lose their right to recover. In most Texas personal injury cases, the statute of limitations is two years from the date the injury occurs. For example, if an injury occurred on January 1, 2020, the deadline for that person to file a lawsuit related to the injury would be January 2, 2022. Depending upon the facts of the case, different statutes of limitations may apply. For instance, the limitations period may vary when the case involves an injury to a minor or based upon the specific type of legal action being brought by the plaintiff. It is, therefore, important to promptly meet with a lawyer after suffering an injury to understand the limitations period in your case.
Depending upon the type of accident or event that caused the injury, a plaintiff may have legal claims against multiple defendants. In some instances it can be difficult to identify all of the relevant parties prior to the expiration of the statute of limitations. A plaintiff must be diligent in locating the proper parties in time, however, it is possible to file a lawsuit against fictitious parties as placeholders to preserve the ability to file suit against a later identified defendant. For example, if a construction worker is injured in a crane accident on the site of a new high rise building, he may have claims against multiple defendants. Potential parties include the crane operator, crane manufacturer, his employer, and the landowner, among others. Given the complexity of the investigation, the victim’s attorney believes additional potential defendants may exist who have not yet been identified. Just prior to expiration of the statute of limitations, counsel files a lawsuit naming the known defendants and listing a number of fictitious “John Doe” defendants. Defendants identified after the lawsuit has been timely filed may be named in place of a fictitious defendant.
In addition to ensuring that you are able to pursue your legal claim, there are other benefits from consulting with an attorney long before the statute of limitations has expired. During the ensuring time-frame, the lawyer can quickly identify the deadlines applicable to your case. It will also allow for adequate time to fully investigate your case prior to filing a lawsuit, including identifying witnesses, understanding your injuries, etc. Hiring counsel early in the process may also allow time for a pre-litigation settlement with the defendant or the defendant’s insurance company prior to the statute of limitations impacting your case.
If you have suffered an injury due to the negligence or wrongdoing of another, it is important that you seek representation immediately to understand the statute of limitations applicable to your case. Our office handles cases in Laredo and other areas of south Texas.