Time Limits In Negligence Cases

If you or a loved one was injured or killed because of someone else’s negligence, time is not on your side, because NYC personal injury lawyers cannot file damage claims once the statute of limitations expires.

In New York , the statute of limitations is three years in most kinds of negligence cases, such as:

  • Car crashes,
  • Swimming pool drownings,
  • Unintentional poisonings,
  • Dog bites, and
  • Falls.

Many other states, including the ones where Napoli Shkolnik PLLC represents victims, the negligence statute of limitations is two years.

Here in the Empire State, NYC personal injury lawyers must deal with different limitations periods in different contexts. Two common examples include:

  • Medical Malpractice: If the victim was injured due to misdiagnosis, a surgical error, or some other kind of medical malpractice, victims lose their right to sue after two years and six months elapse from the date of injury or the date that medical treatment terminated.
  • Government Worker: If the tortfeasor (negligent actor) was an MTA bus driver, garbage truck diver, or another federal, state, or city worker, victims must file a notice of claim within six months.

The latter instance is often complicated, because many such operators — most notably school bus drivers — are really private contractors, so the three-year limitations period probably applies.

The Pre-Litigation Process

Although three years sounds like a long time, it is critical to partner with an NYC personal injury lawyer as soon as possible, because many things must happen before a lawsuit is filed.

In most jurisdictions, lawyers have an ethical responsibility to try and resolve negligence cases without initiating legal action. This negotiation process often takes months or even longer, because talks cannot even begin before discovery and/or medical treatment is at least substantially complete.

NYC personal injury lawyers must also collect significant amounts of evidence before they file court papers, because it is illegal and unethical to make unsubstantiated accusations against anyone.

When Does the Clock Start Ticking?

Due to timeouts and other play stoppages, a 60-minute football game usually takes over three hours to play. Similarly, as far as NYC personal injury lawyers are concerned, three years does not always mean 1,095 days.

If the victim was a minor at the time of the injury, the statute of limitations is tolled (suspended) until the child turns 18; the victim then has until his or her 21st birthday to file suit, in most cases. Before they turn 18, parents or legal guardians of minors can sue on behalf of their children.

The controversial discovery rule also applies in many cases. According to this doctrine, the time limitation does not begin until the victims find out that they are injured and they have a reason to connect their injury with prior negligence.

Assume Vinny Victim takes Drug X for six months in 2011. In 2012, the manufacturers of Drug X add a statement to the warning label that the durg may cause lung cancer, but since Vinny is no longer taking Drug X, he probably does not know about the change. In 2013, Vinny tells his doctor that he’s been experiencing shortness of breath and serious coughing spells. But, since Vinny has no family history and does not smoke, Vinny’s doctor does not think Vinny has cancer. In 2014, as his symptoms persist, a specialist diagnosis Vinny’s lung cancer; in 2015, Vinny sees a TV commercial from a group of NYC personal injury lawyers which says that Drug X has been linked with lung cancer.

If Vinny files suit in 2017, the defendant will probably argue that his action falls outside the statute of limitations, due to the fact that Vinny should have known that he had lung cancer in 2013 and he should have known about the link between Drug X and serious illness before he went to the doctor.

Injury victims have a limited amount of time to act. For a free consultation with an experienced NYC personal injury lawyer, contact Napoli Shkolnik PLLC. After hours appointments are available.