STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS – PHOENIX ARIZONA PERSONAL INJURY

If you have a Phoenix Arizona Personal Injury due to the negligence of someone else, you need to be aware that there are time limits on bringing a claim for compensation.  These are called “statute of limitations.” These statutes are designed to ensure that lawsuits are brought promptly while evidence is still relatively fresh and witness recollections have not fade too much. They also ensure that a potential civil defendant does not have to live under constant threat of litigation beyond the limitations period. Statutes of limitations are serious business. If you wait too long to bring your lawsuit, you won’t be allowed to bring it at all.

WHAT IS A STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS?

Many personal injury claims settle before the statute of limitations expires. But you can’t count of that. If settlement discussions with the insurance company are dragging on or going nowhere, you still need to file a lawsuit within the limitations period in order to preserve your claim.

In Arizona the general statute of limitations on claims for personal injury, whether by auto accident, malpractice or otherwise, is two years. A.R.S. § 12-542. Under the statute, the two-year period begins to run when “the cause of action accrues.” Your cause of action is your claim as stated in a lawsuit. In personal injury cases the accrual date is the date of the injury, for example, the date of the auto accident. So you have to bring your lawsuit, if at all, within two years of the accident date.

DISCOVERY RULE

Arizona, however, also has a “discovery rule.” This may extend the accrual date in certain cases when the injury or the defendant’s conduct is difficult to detect. Under the discovery rule the cause of action accrues when you or by reasonable diligence should have known that you had a claim. 

For example, you get hit by a negligent driver. At the time of the accident you have no symptoms, and your doctor does not make a diagnosis of injury. Only later do you develop symptoms that resulted from a degenerative process set off by the accident. Or say you suddenly become violently ill and have to be hospitalized for no apparent reason.

Only later do you learn that the illness was caused by your next-door neighbors’ overly zealous use of pesticides which found their way onto your property, or by your landlord’s failure to remediate mold in your apartment. Under any of these scenarios the statute of limitations may not start to run until you know or reasonably should know that you were injured and that defendant’s conduct caused the injury. You should consult an attorney on this.

TOLLING PERIODS

There are certain other things that may delay, or “toll,” the start of the limitations period. If the injured person is a minor or is mentally incompetent, then the statute of limitations is typically tolled until the injured person is no longer a minor or incompetent. The injured person and the alleged negligent person can also agree to “toll” the statute of limitations. Such agreements should be in writing and signed by the person who allegedly caused the injury and/or his or her attorney. You definitely need to consult an attorney.

BEWARE. If your injury was caused by the negligence of a public employee or public entity (for example, the State of Arizona, Maricopa County, City of Phoenix, public school), the limitations period for bringing a claim is MUCH shorter. You must file a notice of such claim with the employee or entity within 180 days after the cause of action accrued. In addition, you must file your lawsuit within one year after the cause of action accrued. This gets tricky. You should talk to a lawyer as soon as possible after your accident.

Call us at 1.833.383.4448 (1.833.DTF.IGHT) today to discuss your case.