Can I File a Personal Injury Accident at Any Time in Missouri?If you have suffered from an injury and you want to file a lawsuit, you may wonder how long you have to do so. It is important that you understand that you cannot just file a personal injury lawsuit whenever you want—the law imposes what's known as a "statute of limitations," or time period to sue. If you do not file your claim within that statute of limitations, you may be forever barred from recovering your damages.
Why is there a Statute of Limitations?
Many people wonder why a statute of limitations exists. After all, is it fair that just because you procrastinate on filing your case, you don't get to recover? The answer is that the defendant is entitled to fairness, as well, often called due process of the law. The statute of limitations exists to be fair to him, too.
After a long period of time, it can become harder for a defendant to build a case to prove his innocence. Evidence may be lost. Witnesses may move away, die, or their recollections become hazy. It wouldn't be fair to the defendant to be charged with causing injury and potentially faced with a large verdict without giving him a chance to build a defense.
What is the Statute of Limitations in Missouri?
In Missouri, there is a five-year statute of limitations for filing a personal injury claim. This is longer than most states, which typically have statutes of limitations that range from two to three years on average. In Missouri, the five-year statute of limitations means you must file your claim within five years of the date the injury took place.
However, while that is the general rule, there are exceptions. For example, if an injury led to a death, wrongful death lawsuits must be filed within three years of the date of the death.
Different rules apply to medical malpractice claims, in large part because an injury arising from such malpractice sometimes does not become apparent until months or years after the medical care. This is especially true in cases where a doctor left a foreign instrument in your body during surgery or where a doctor misdiagnosed you.
As such, for medical malpractice claims, the case must be filed within two years from the date that the injury was actually discovered. However, there is a ten-year maximum period from the date the injury occurred. So, if you do not discover your doctor's negligence until more than 10 years after it occurred, you may not sue.
If you have been the victim of someone's negligence, or if someone hurt you intentionally, don't wait. Consult an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible to find out when you need to file a case and what you must do to protect your rights.
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