Personal Injury Law: New York Statute of Limitations

When you’re injured in New York State, how much time do you have to sue?

Time limitations: When a person has been injured due to the negligent acts of another, the time to bring a claim against the person or entity responsible is limited. This time limit is governed by what is called the Statute of Limitations. Generally, in New York State, the Statute of Limitations for someone to bring a lawsuit for negligence is three years. Of course, things in law, as in life, are never quite as simple as that. There are many qualifiers and exceptions to the three year rule.

The first question that must be asked is when does the three year time limit begin? What starts the clock? Is it the date of the injury? The date of the accident? Usually those two dates are the same but not always.

For example, in a case of medical negligence (other wise known as malpractice), for which the Statute of Limitations is two and a half years and not three, what happens in a case when a doctor operates on a patient and leaves something inside the patient that was not supposed to be there. The patient may wake up and not realize she has anything wrong until she feels pain maybe 6 months later. In such a case, when does the 2.5 year Statute commence? The answer to that question can be extremely important because if the patient does not contact a lawyer until two years and six months and one day after the surgery, by that time she is either out of luck and her case is time barred if the Statute begins to run from the date of the surgery, or she may still have almost six months left to sue if the Statute begins to run from the date she discovers the injury.One of the most consequential exceptions to the three years general negligence Statute of Limitations is the one for cases against municipalities. In New York State, the Statute of limitations for actions against a municipality, such as the City of New York, or a Municipal agency, such as the NYPD, is only one year and ninety days.

Additionally, once a Statute of Limitations has been missed it gives rise to what is called a jurisdictional defense. That means that it is not something that can be waived by a defendant. In other words, even if the plaintiff missed their time to bring a lawsuit, but brought one anyway, and a defendant fails to raise the issue in his defense, they do not ever lose the opportunity to later raise the issue. They can raise it all the way through the trial and if they are correct and the Statute was missed then the case will be dismissed. Furthermore, the judge does not have the power to extend the Statute of Limitations. A Plaintiff will be found to have missed it or not. If it was missed, the game is over. If it wasn’t, then the lawsuit can proceed.

One of the most difficult things for me to do as an attorney is listen to a potential client tell me their story of how they have been injured as a result of someone else’s negligence when in the end I have to tell them I cannot help them because they contacted me after the Statute of Limitations has expired. In order to avoid this, it is extremely important to contact an attorney early on. Even if it is early and you are not yet sure how serious your injuries are, call our personal injury lawyers. The Orlow Firm’s lawyers will know all the time limitations applicable to your case and make sure your rights are preserved so that you can get appropriately compensated for your injuries.