One of the most important things to be aware of when pursuing a claim in civil court is when to file. Plaintiffs—those who ask for relief from the courts by filing lawsuits—are only allowed a certain amount of time to start a case. That acceptable delay is called the statute of limitations: If more time has passed than allowed in the law, a case can’t be started.
The statute of limitations (also called “limitation of actions” in Utah) can be unfortunate for a victim who misses a deadline. But it can be helpful to someone threatened with a lawsuit. If the time expires, the suit can’t happen. Time limits can also be good for both parties, because the longer a suit is delayed, the more likely evidence will be lost or witnesses’ memories will blur.
While for most criminal offenses the state has several years to initiate a case (and for many violent crimes there is no limit), that’s not true for most civil cases. The delay allowed before filing suit varies with the type of dispute and the statutory limit is very short in some cases.
For most cases seen by our practice—which concentrates on personal injury law—the statute of limitations in Utah is four years. That applies to any injuries caused in a car accident, for example, or a dog bite case, or an injury suffered due to an unsafe condition at a business or on-the-job (if not handled under workers compensation).
But if a car accident caused only property damage (not injury), the limit to file is only three years. Medical malpractice cases and product liability cases must be filed within two years. Two years is also the limit for starting a wrongful death suit in Utah. For some types of cases, filing must happen within as little as six months.
Another important consideration is knowing when the clock starts ticking on the statute of limitations. In most cases, that’s very simple to measure: from the moment of the action that causes harm.
In a few cases, the time limit for filing can be extended. Most limits, for instance, begin when the injured party knew or should have known of the injury. Sometimes an injury isn’t immediately obvious, which can extend the time allowed. A minor can’t initiate a suit on her own, and most actions can be delayed until the victim is old enough.
Other exceptions can be complicated, and whether any exception even applies can be a matter for a judge to rule on, and an injured plaintiff should never assume they’ll be able to prove that argument.
As a law firm that deals with personal injury cases in the state of Utah from our Salt Lake City and Sandy offices, the attorneys at Craig Swapp & Associates need to understand all aspects of the law that affect our clients and their cases, and the statute of limitations is one of the most important things to know.
If you need help understanding how to proceed with your personal injury claim, give our experienced team a call at 1-800-404-9000 or contact us online to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your situation. You can also launch the LiveChat feature from any page of this website for more information.