New York’s Statute of Limitations for Personal Injuries

two lawyers discussing New York's statute of limitations

US law requires that a lawsuit be filed within a specified period of time, depending on the nature of the claim and the entity that caused the damage. This is known as a statute of limitations.

The main purposes and benefits of statutes of limitations are to ensure that defendants are treated fairly and that cases are based on valid, timely evidence. Both physical evidence and the reliability of eyewitness testimonies deteriorate over time, so a limitation on how long a plaintiff can wait before pursuing a case is necessary to ensure the trial is as fair as possible. However, the set length of these limitations vary depending on the type of case and the state it is tried in.

New York’s Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Cases

In New York, most personal injury actions must be filed within three years from the date the injury occurred. Failure to file within this time will cause you to forfeit your right to pursue a personal injury case.

Here are three facts you should know about New York’s statute of limitations for personal injury cases:

  • The statute of limitations is a law that establishes the maximum term that the parties have to initiate a judicial proceeding.
  • The duration of the time allowed for filing varies according to the type of crime and its severity.
  • Serious crime cases such as murder usually do not have a statute of limitations.

From the defendant’s side, to successfully use the statute of limitations as a defense, it is necessary to show that the criminal complaint or charge was filed after the specific period dictated by the statute has elapsed.

There are, however, some exceptions which affect the period the statute of limitations covers.

Exceptions to the Rule

In most cases, the date from which the statute of limitations extends is the date the injury occurred. However, there may be exceptions in cases where the injury might not reasonably be discovered until a later date.

For example, mesothelioma is a cancer that often goes undetected for years or even decades after exposure to asbestos. In a mesothelioma case, or in cases of other diseases with long-term effects such as this that may not be immediately recognizable, the statute of limitations is three years after the diagnosis of the disease instead of three years after the disease itself began to take effect.

New York Statutes of Limitations for Other Cases

In addition to New York’s statute of limitations for personal injuries, each type of case will have its own statute of limitations judging when the case is too old to be tried. Here are some of the most common:

Wrongful Death: In the days after a wrongful death in NYC, you may find that you don’t have the money to cover your funeral or burial expenses. You’ll likely wonder how you are going to balance your bills if you depended on your loved one for support.

These are damages that you can recover with a wrongful death lawsuit. You can seek compensation for the financial losses you suffered as a result of the death of your loved one. Pecuniary damages can include money for:

  • Loss of income and wages,
  • Loss of employment benefits, and
  • Loss of inheritance.

In New York, the statute of limitations for wrongful death cases is two years. 

Property Damage or Property Liability: For any damage caused to your home and business, the clock starts running on the day the property damage occurs. The owner has three years from that date to file against the party responsible for the damage.

Medical Malpractice: An action for medical malpractice must be filed within two years from when the act or omission took place or from the end of the treatment during which the action or omission took place.

Special Cases and Exceptions

Serious crime cases, such as murder, often do not have a maximum statute of limitations. Some other exceptional cases that often do not have a maximum time frame in which it is required to begin your case include sex crimes involving minors, violent crimes like kidnapping or arson, and acts of terrorism.

One New York example of such an exception is the Child Victims Act. On February 14, 2019, the Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, enacted the legislation that expands the statute of limitations for the sexual abuse of minors. The extension gives victims more time to file criminal charges generally and allows a 12-month window for litigation for adult victims of all ages who were abused as children. Due to COVID-19, this window has now been extended further to allow claims to be filed until August 14, 2021.

In some cases, there are further exceptions to the statutes of limitation that may extend or limit the time frame. There may be special claims filing requirements for claims against state and local governments. For example, lawsuits against the State and its political subdivisions must be filed within 90 days of the injury or occurrence.

For these reasons, it is important to consult an experienced New York personal injury attorney as soon as possible after an injury or other abuse occurs to ensure that you do not miss a crucial deadline. Napoli Shkolnik’s knowledgeable lawyers are prepared to give you the legal assistance you need to achieve the best legal results possible.