Statute of Limitations

How much time an individual has to file a civil lawsuit varies from state to state. These time limits, known as statutes of limitations, control the amount of time after an incident a person (or a group and/or their representative) has to take legal action. If the plaintiffs (i.e., the person(s) filing the case) fail to file before the deadline, the case will be thrown out of court.

The timeline to file begins, in most cases, when the injury occurred or when the worker “knew or should have known” the cause of their illness (known as the discovery rule). For people with occupational lung diseases such as mesothelioma or lung cancer, the discovery rule may affect when the limitation period starts in wrongful death cases.

There are exceptions that may allow some people to extend the available time to make a claim. Also, certain people may file their case in a different state than where they currently live, potentially extending or shortening the amount of time they have to file. For example, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims filed in Minnesota and North Dakota is six years, while in states like Kentucky, Louisiana, and Tennessee the deadline is one year. The state in which you file your legal claim is generally determined by:

  • States of residency
  • Job locations
  • Headquarters of at-fault companies

The type of lawsuit being filed also determines which statutes apply. Workers’ compensation, personal injury, asbestos trust funds, and wrongful death claims are typically governed by separate time limits in each state. To avoid missing a deadline, it’s important to speak with a knowledgeable attorney as soon as possible about your case. In addition to properly filing your case, a lawyer can also ensure you have the required information to prove your case.

Submit a free case evaluation form to be contacted about filing your case prior to the applicable state deadlines.

Statute of Limitations for Each State

State Personal Injury Time Limit Wrongful Death Time Limit
Alabama 2 years 2 years
Alaska 2 years 2 years
Arizona 2 years 2 years
Arkansas 3 years 3 years
California 2 years 2 years
Colorado 2 years 2 years
Connecticut 2 years 2 years
Delaware 2 years 2 years
Florida 4 years 2 years
Georgia 2 years 2 years
Hawaii 2 years 2 years
Idaho 2 years 2 years
Illinois 2 years 2 years
Indiana 2 years 2 years
Iowa 2 years 2 years
Kansas 2 years 2 years
Kentucky 1 year 1 year
Louisiana 1 year 1 year
Maine 6 years 2 years
Maryland 3 years 3 years
Massachusetts 3 years 3 years
Michigan 3 years 3 years
Minnesota 2 years 3 to 6 years depending on the case
Mississippi 3 years 3 years
Missouri 5 years 3 years
Montana 3 years 3 years
Nebraska 4 years 2 years
Nevada 2 years 2 years
New Hampshire 3 years 3 years
New Jersey 2 years 2 years
New Mexico 3 years 3 years
New York 3 years 2 years
North Carolina 3 years 2 years
North Dakota 6 years 2 years
Ohio 2 years 2 years
Oklahoma 2 years 2 years
Oregon 2 years 3 years
Pennsylvania 2 years 2 years
Rhode Island 3 years 3 years
South Carolina 3 years 3 years
South Dakota 3 years 3 years
Tennessee 1 year 1 year
Texas 2 years 2 years
Utah 4 years 2 years
Vermont 3 years 2 years
Virginia 2 years 2 years
Washington 3 years 3 years
Washington, D.C. 3 years 2 years
West Virginia 2 years 2 years
Wisconsin 3 years 3 years
Wyoming 4 years 2 years

Because states often revise their laws each year, speaking with a qualified attorney is the best way to understand your state’s laws as well as the applicable statutes for your case.

What Happens If I Miss the Deadline to File a Claim?

If a person or their representative fails to file a legal claim before the statute of limitations, the American Bar Association explains that courts will not typically allow the case to move forward. However, there are exceptions that allow certain individuals to file a claim after the deadline has passed. For example, the statute of limitations for minors filing a wrongful death claim on behalf of a parent does not begin until they turn 18 years old.

Typically, the last resort to extend a state’s timeline to file is a process known as tolling the statute of limitations (i.e., delaying the deadline). Tolling a statute is more common than requesting the judge and/or defendant to waive the statute of limitations but is still contingent on relevant state laws. The most common form of tolling happens when minors, filing on behalf of a parent, delay cases until they become an adult. Before granting an extension to the deadline to file, a judge will consider the benefits for the plaintiff against partiality regarding the defendant.

Finding a Lawyer

In general, the statute of limitations for workers’ compensation claims is much shorter than deadlines for personal injury and wrongful death claims. In many places, workers have 30 days to inform their employer of injury-causing incidents (such as a severe case of exposure to carbon monoxide that causes workers to lose consciousness).

Yet, for many workers with years of occupational exposure, it can take decades for their work-related illness to produce symptoms. As such, workers and retirees should seek legal advice as soon as possible after a diagnosis of cancer or another occupational disease to explore your options for compensation.