The Texas Personal Injury Statute of Limitations

What is the Personal Injury Statute of Limitations in Texas?

Unless you are suing a governmental entity, the statute of limitations on a personal injury case in Texas is two years from the date on which the cause of action accrues unless an exception is met, such as the claimant is a minor, the claimant is a sex crime victim, the claim is not discoverable until later, the claim is regarding certain medical malpractice, the claim is subject to maritime laws, or the claims are related to asbestos or silica exposure. It is best to consult a personal injury lawyer to determine the Texas personal injury statute of limitations that applies to your case.

Common Personal Injury Statute Of Limitations Is 2 Years

Clock with hands scales of justiceThe Texas personal injury statute of limitations on most personal injury claims involving an injured adult is two years from the date that the cause of action accrues.  See Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, Section 16.003. A cause of action typically “accrues” at the time in which an injury caused by another should be realized. In most cases, this is the date that the injury occurs, however, there are several exceptions to this rule as discussed below. A Houston, TX personal injury attorney can look at your case and determine whether any exceptions apply to the Texas personal injury statute of limitations in your case.

What Exceptions Are There to the Texas Personal Injury Statute of Limitations?

There are six main areas of exceptions to the two-year statute of limitations on bringing a personal injury claim in Texas. These are:

  • Claims against the City, County, State, or Federal Government.
  • Claims involving minors
  • Sex crimes against adults
  • Claims where the injury is subject to the discovery rule
  • Medical malpractice claims
  • Claims against first-party automobile insurance
  • Certain maritime claims
  • Asbestosis and silica-related claims.

Claims Against Government Entities

When you are trying to file a claim against the government or an employee of the government, you should consult a personal injury lawyer immediately, The government is protected by the doctrine of sovereign immunity. In short, this means that they are entitled to receive very specific written notice of a claim within a certain period, or YOUR RIGHT TO FILE A CLAIM IS WAIVED. This time period may be as short as 30 days or as long as 90 when dealing with a city or county governmental unit, 6 months when dealing with the State of Texas, and two years when dealing with the Federal Government.  Once you have filed a timely notice, then you have a two-year statute of limitation from the date of the injury if it is a city, county, or state government claim.  Under Federal law, you have 6 months from the date the Federal Government denies your claim or two years-whichever is shorter.

What is the Statute of Limitations for Children in Texas?

The two-year statute of limitations on personal injury cases is tolled for minors until the minor reaches the age of majority (18).  Thus, when a minor sustains an injury, their statute of limitations generally does not run until their 20th birthday. However, this time can be shorter in medical malpractice claims due to tort reform restrictions. See the “medical malpractice claims” section below. This tolling provision also does not apply if the injury results in the death of a minor. This is the case because the law generally affords extra protection to children. They are deemed to not be mature enough to make responsible legal decisions for themselves. As a result, the two-year statute of limitations does not begin to run on the date of the injury.

What is the Statute of Limitations for Sexual Crimes Against Minors in Texas?

Under the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code Section 16.0045, a person must bring suit for personal injury not later than 30 years after the cause of action accrues for:

  • sexual assault of a minor
  • aggravated sexual assault of a minor
  • indecency with a minor
  • promoting prostitution of a minor
  • continued sexual assault of a minor
  • sexual trafficking of a minor.

The cause of action does not start to accrue for a surviving victim until they turn 18. However, this law was not enacted until 2019. For acts committed prior to 2019, the SOL was only 15 years.

Thus, there are specific statutes of limitations for sexual assault and abuse claims against minors.

What is the Statute of Limitations for Sex Crimes Against Adults in Texas?

The statute of limitations on sexual crimes against adults is five years from the date the cause of action accrues. Under Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code Section 16.0045(b), A person must bring suit for personal injury not later than five years after the day the cause of action accrues if the injury arises as a result of conduct that violates certain provisions of Sections 21 and 43 of the Texas Penal Code that prohibit:

  • sexual assault of an adult
  • aggravated sexual assault of an adult
  • promoting prostitution of an adult
  • sexual trafficking of an adult.

What Claims are Subject To the Discovery Rule in Texas?

When an injury is ‘inherently undiscoverable’ or unlikely to be discovered within the two-year statute of limitations by the exercise of due diligence, the claim may be subject to the discovery rule.  If the court finds that the discovery rule applies, then the statute of limitations is tolled until the time upon which the injury should have been discovered in the exercise of due diligence.  That means it does not even start to run until the person should have discovered it. This, however, is a very narrowly tailored exception to the rule which is not intended to be applied often.  See Computer Assocs. Int’l, Inc. v. Altai, Inc., 918 S.W.2d 453, 455 (Tex. 1996). It will only extend the statute of limitations until the person, with due diligence should have discovered it, not necessarily when they actually discovered it.

Does the Discovery Rule apply if I am still suffering after the SOL runs?

No. Sorry, but this is not how the discovery rule works. The fact that you are still experiencing pain or mental anguish after the statute deadline runs does not create a Discovery Rule exception. If it was discoverable that the tortfeasor negligently caused you harm within the statute of limitations period, ongoing suffering does not extend the deadline.

What is an example of a possible Discovery Rule exception?

The classic Discovery Rule example is when a doctor performs surgery but leaves a surgical instrument inside the patient. The patient cannot know there is something left inside them until someone performs an x-ray generally, so this could extend the statute of limitations if they don’t have issues and discover it until after the statute has run. Mass torts are another example where it is unknown that a particular drug or product has a harmful side effect until after the typical statute of limitations has run.

What is the Statute of Limitations on Medical Malpractice Claims in Texas?

Medical malpractice cases are subject to a two-year statute of limitations. (Unless one of the above exceptions applies.) However, you should be aware that tort reform in Texas has placed additional limits on medical malpractice claims that limit what and when exceptions may apply.  There is a 10-year statute of repose that prevents even minors from bringing claims more than 10 years after the incident occurs. Thus, you should seek the advice of an attorney as soon as possible in medical malpractice cases to see what rules apply to your case.

What is the Statute of Limitations for First-Party Automobile Insurance Claims in Texas?

The statute of limitations on first-party claims is determined by contract. They are typically two to four years in Texas. When you file an uninsured motorist claim, an underinsured motorist claim, or a personal injury protection claim, you are filing a first-party claim against your own insurance company pursuant to a written contract. If they fail to pay you after you have made a presentment of your claim to them, you have the right to sue them for breach of contract and/or a declaratory judgment action. The statute of limitations for breach of contract and the declaratory judgment is generally four years from the date of the accident.  The personal injury protection claim statute of limitations is often defined by your insurance contract.  They are commonly three years, but you should always check your own contract for changes or alterations. Additionally, if an agent commits negligence in the handling of the claim, that negligence claim may have a two-year statute of limitations.

What is the Statute of Limitations for Maritime Claims in Texas?

While three years is common, maritime accidents have numerous statutes of limitations that may apply under state and federal law. The will vary depending upon whether your case is onshore or offshore, on a waterway, dock, or the ocean, and other factors.  Depending upon how and where your accident occurs, your case may fall under State personal injury law, state worker’s compensation laws, the federal Longshore and Harbormen’s Act, or the Jones Act.  For a full explanation, please visit the following link for a full explanation of the Statute of Limitations in maritime claims.

What is the Statute of Limitations for Asbestosis and Silica-Related Injury Claims in Texas?

Pursuant to Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, Section 16.0031, a cause of action for personal injuries or death caused by asbestosis or silica-related illnesses has an extended statute of limitations.  The cause of action accrues on the earlier of:

  • the date of the exposed person’s death, or
  • the date that the claimant serves on a defendant a required report.

This means that the 2-year statute of limitations will not begin to run until the earlier of the two above events occurs.

What is the Purpose of the Civil State of Limitations?

A civil statute of limitations is a strict deadline designed to ensure that lawsuits are brought while evidence can still be located and witnesses’ memories are still clear. It is a balancing of an injured person’s right to seek redress for the harm done vs the right of the accused to be able to gather the information they need to defend themselves before it disappears. When the harm done is more egregious–such as an assault on a minor–the circumstances warrant a longer time period to allow the aggrieved party to come forward. However, you need to beware that the court cannot and will not change the above statute of limitations for your specific situation. The “extra consideration’ for unique circumstances has already been taken into account in the above rules.

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