How COVID-19 Affects Your Personal Injury Statute of Limitations

by Jonathan Damashek on May. 15, 2020

Accident & Injury Personal Injury Accident & Injury Accident & Injury  Car Accident 

Summary: Depending on where you’d file your claim, the courts or governor may have suspended the statute of limitations for a time. What does that mean for you?

The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting our entire way of life. The world seems like it’s on hold. But the truth is that the world is still turning, and legal claims are moving forward. If you were recently hurt in an accident that you believe was someone else’s fault, don’t wait to pursue your case. Learn more about your rights, including how long you have to file a personal injury lawsuit.


Depending on where you’d file your claim, the courts or governor may have suspended the statute of limitations for a time. What does that mean for you? While a statute of limitations is tolled, it doesn’t count against you. The clock is paused. Ultimately, this gives you a little longer to file a lawsuit when courts are back to normal.


New York’s Personal Injury Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations for personal injury claims is 3 years from the date of the accident, under CPLR 214(5). The clock starts running the day of the car crash, slip and fall, or another incident.


But there are various reasons why that clock can pause, which is known as tolling. The coronavirus and stay-at-home orders across the country have become one of those reasons.


Gov. Cuomo Tolls NY Statutes of Limitations

While New York courts are open and relying on a virtual court system, it’s prudent to discourage parties from filing new lawsuits during the coronavirus pandemic. If a matter can wait, it should. But to make sure waiting doesn’t harm a possible plaintiff or defendant, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order tolling the statutes of limitations.


The order says court operations should be limited to only what is essential, and “any specific time limit for the commencement, filing, or service of any legal action, notice, motion, or other process or proceeding,” whether for criminal, family, or civil law, is tolled from the date of the order, March 20, to April 19, 2020.


For anyone with a legal claim in New York, the governor paused the clock. The tolling applies to any claim, including those that would have expired and those that accrue during this time.


Have Other States Tolled the Statutes of Limitations?

Yes, numerous other states have specifically tolled all statutes of limitations and deadlines. Other states, like Delaware, Hawaii, and D.C., are extending statutes of limitations that would expire during the designated period. A few states, like Texas, are allowing judges to make case-by-case decisions in extending filing deadlines.


Whether or not the statute of limitations for your personal injury claim is paused depends on the jurisdiction where you’d bring your case. Baker Botts offers a state-by-state analysis, but you should speak with a local personal injury attorney about your specific circumstances.


Keep a close eye on the dates given in any jurisdiction’s order. Also, remember, the dates could change. Many tolling orders are through a date in April. But this crisis is going to last months longer, and some jurisdictions may pause all or certain statutes of limitations further.


Don’t Delay Your Personal Injury Claim

Even if the period to bring a personal injury lawsuit is extended in your jurisdiction, never wait until the last minute to pursue your claim. If you’ve been hurt in an accident, it’s best to move forward as soon as possible.


Medical practices, insurance companies, and law firms are open during the COVID-19 crisis. You can and should receive medical care, though, avoid the emergency room if you can. You can begin the insurance claim process at home and even consult with a lawyer through a phone call or video conference.


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Hecht Kleeger & Damashek, P.C., is a  New York City personal injury law firm and our injury attorneys have earned notable reputations in New York City. New York Magazine & New York Law Journal awarded our firm Top Verdicts and Settlements.

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