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What is the Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Cases

In Massachusetts, there is a three year statute of limitations for personal injury cases.  That is, you have three years from the date of the injury to file a lawsuit under the law.  However, there are significant exceptions.  Before we review the exceptions, let’s discuss what the statute of limitations is and why it is there.  The Statute of Limitations is a statute, or law, which prevents civil causes of action from lingering forever.  It “limits” the number of years you have to bring a lawsuit.  This allows for people to “move on” from civil cases over time.

Legal malpractice has the same three year statute of limitations.  Many legal malpractice cases are because the initial attorney failed to file suit within that three year time limit.  It is generally considered negligent for an attorney who represents a victim in a personal injury case to “neglect” to adhere to the statute of limitations law.

Wrongful Death Claims and the Statute of Limitations

Families of deceased persons have the same three year statute of limitations.  Again, this means that you have three years from the date of death to file a lawsuit.  This can include conscious pain and suffering which occurred as a result of the injury prior to death.  There is an added factor here in that you need to petition the Probate Court to be the executor or administrator of an estate before you can file an action in court.  That is, someone who is deceased cannot file a lawsuit; only his or her legal representative can do so.

Creditors of the decedent’s estate generally have one year to file a claim.

What About Injuries Caused by the State, or City Governments?

The statute of limitations against the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and any city or town government is also three years.  But, there is a “presentment” statute which makes it complicated.  The presentment rule, in Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 258, Section 4, states that you must serve the entity within two years.  They make it more complicated because how and who you serve the government is important.

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) is under this same statute.  The “old” law protected the MBTA and gave it a two year statute of limitations.  However, in 2009, it was amended to that it complies with MGL Chapter 258.

The Federal Tort Claims Act is even more specific and needs to be followed carefully.

Chapter 93A Statute of Limitations

We are often asked to represent victims in personal injury and legal malpractice cases in which we employ Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 93A, the Consumer Protection statute.  There is a four year statute of limitations under this statute.  Usually, in personal injury cases, the 93A demand is against an insurance company for unfair settlement practices.  In the event that you are claiming that an insurance company violated the Consumer Protection Statute, you must site Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 176D.  However, this does not change the statute.

In the event that you have a legal malpractice claim in Massachusetts, the 93A demand is against an attorney for unfair and deceptive trade practices in the attorney client relationship.

Hire An Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer in Massachusetts

When folks are injured they may not focus on the various Massachusetts laws that govern their claims.  Sometimes the last thing on a victim’s mind is to hire a lawyer right away.  However, it’s important.  Attorney Neil Burns has been representing victims of personal injury cases and legal malpractice for violation of the statute of limitation since 1985.  Call for a free consultation.