What is the Statute of Limitations for Accident Cases?
In Massachusetts, you have three years from the date of an accident to file your claim. If you do not file your claim within that three-year window, you will be forever barred from filing a claim thereafter. MGL c. 260 § 2A.
There are exceptions to the rule, such as minors. A minor, generally speaking, has three years from their 18th birthday to file a claim. However, this may not apply in medical malpractice cases due to the 7-year Statute of Repose. There are additional special rules, which are beyond the scope of this blog, for medical malpractice claims. However, there exists a legal concept known as the “Discovery Rule,” for medical negligence claims, and arguably, regular accident claims. The Discovery Rule states that a party must file a claim within three years of when they knew or reasonably should have known that they were injured by the conduct of another. Therefore, in some cases, the law affords a claimant additional time to file their claim. However, it’s vital to speak with an attorney regarding time limits if you are unsure.
Additionally, just because you have three years to file a claim does not mean you should wait. If you believe you have a claim for personal injury from an accident, its imperative that you contact a lawyer as soon as possible. Firstly, you do not want to leave too little time for an attorney to do an adequate job on your case. If you know you’ve been injured and do nothing about it for close to three years, you may find it difficult to hire a lawyer to handle the matter because they will have to file a lawsuit very quickly, and in some cases, without adequate time to fully investigate. Second, evidence does not last forever. There may be documentation, video, photographs, reports, witnesses, and the like, that may slowly disappear as the years go by. Our office routinely sends out a “Do Not Destroy,” letter to potential defendants with respect to evidence that they may have in their possession, but may destroy as a matter of the course of normal business. This protects the evidence if it is required at trial to prove your claim.
If you’ve been injured as a result of the conduct of another, at no fault of your own, and you may want to file a claim, don’t wait. Reach out to an attorney who specializes in this area of law to find out what the time limits for filing are, and what your case may be worth.