Every state has its own filing deadlines for specific kinds of cases, known as the statute of limitations. According to Tennessee Law, all personal injury claims (including car accidents, slip and falls, and medical malpractice claims) have a statute of limitations of one year from the date of the initial incident. If victims do not take legal action against a liable party within this time period, the case may be dismissed, and the victims will not be compensated. However, there are a few exceptions.
Exceptions to the One-Year Filing Deadline in a Personal Injury Case
Although the statute of limitations may vary depending on the details of your case, it is always better to speak with an attorney sooner rather than later. A Tennessee personal injury lawyer can examine the circumstances of your accident, begin investigations on your behalf, and gather evidence before it is lost or destroyed. No matter what type of injury you have suffered, it is generally best to get your claim filed as soon as possible.
That said, victims may have a longer period of time to bring a personal injury lawsuit if the claim involves:
- Minors. If a child has been injured, he or she has the right to reach legal adulthood before pursuing an injury case. All children under the age of 18 have until their 19th birthday to file a lawsuit, regardless of their age when the injury occurred.
- Medical malpractice. Some injuries can take months or even years to fully manifest, and victims should not be penalized if their injuries are not immediately apparent. Tennessee’s discovery rule extended the statute of limitations in medical malpractice cases to one year from the date the victim knew (or should have known) that their medical treatment resulted in an injury.
- Criminal charges. If a law enforcement officer or prosecutor filed criminal charges against the negligent person whose conduct directly caused your injury, the statute of limitations for a civil case is extended to two years. For example, if you were in a car accident and the at-fault driver was charged with DUI, you may have two years to bring a personal injury case against the driver. The law also allows the statute of limitations to be extended if the at-fault driver was charged with certain traffic infractions (such as reckless driving or following too closely) in relation to the accident.
- Wrongful death. In cases where the victim is deceased, whether by cause of the initial accident or by injuries sustained from the accident, the one-year statute of limitations may be extended. Since death may not be immediate, family members cannot be expected to file a claim based on the accident date. Therefore, the statute of limitations will either be extended by 120 days or reconfigured to begin on the date of death, rather than the date of the accident.
- Wrongful concealment. Since the defendant in an injury claim can use the statute of limitations deadline as a defense to have the case dismissed, it stands to reason that prolonging the claim is in his best interest. However, if a defendant willfully or maliciously withholds evidence needed to complete a claim, the statute of limitations deadline can be extended to make up for this lost time. In addition, the court may assess penalties against a defendant who engages in intentional misrepresentation or concealment, as well as order the defendant to compensate the claimant for losses incurred as a result of the delays.
- Absentee defendants. The person responsible for the victim’s injuries may reside outside the state of Tennessee for a period of time after the underlying accident, but before the lawsuit can be filed. In these cases, the period of absence may not be counted as part of the one-year filing deadline.
Don’t wait for the time limit to expire before learning your legal options! Simply fill out the short contact form on this page to set up a FREE initial consultation, or download a complimentary copy of our book, The 10 Worst Mistakes You Can Make With Your Tennessee Injury Case.