Is It too Late to Sue?
Understanding the time limits for filing a personal injury lawsuit is crucial for a successful case.
These limits are referred to as the “statute of limitations” for a certain type of case. The statute of limitations is a limit on the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit in civil court after you’ve suffered injury or other harm. If you fail to sue within the given time frame, New Jersey courts will most likely refuse to hear your case at any time in the future—meaning you will lose out on your right to compensation for the injury.
New Jersey adults making a personal injury claim have two years from the date of the incident to file a lawsuit. For example, if you slip and fall in a supermarket due to an unattended spill, you must file a lawsuit against the supermarket for your injuries within two years of the fall.
The two-year statute of limitations also applies to product liability lawsuits and wrongful death claims. (Wrongful death claims are filed by the family or estate of the decedent, but the suit must still be filed within the two-year deadline.)
The law is slightly different for minors. If a minor suffers an actionable injury (i.e. an injury that provides grounds for legal action), he or she has two years from his or her 18th birthday to file a lawsuit.
Medical malpractice claims are not always as black-and-white as other personal injury claims. When healthcare provider negligence is in question, it could take days, months, and even years for an injury to manifest itself. For example, if a surgeon leaves a surgical sponge inside your body during a routine procedure, it could take years for the sponge to travel to another part of the body and cause serious health concerns.
For this reason, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases is slightly adjusted. Adults have two years from the time of the malpractice OR two years from the date he or she should have known that malpractice occurred. Minors must file suit within two years of his or her 18th birthday.
Birth injuries are also treated somewhat differently by New Jersey law. Minors who were injured at birth before July 2004 must file suit within two years of the person’s 18th birthday. Minors who were injured at birth after July 2004 must file suit by the time of the victim’s 13th birthday.
Claims against public entities, county, state, or municipal entities are also handled a bit differently. If you are injured by a public official or vehicle, such as a garbage truck or police car, you must give the government entity notice of the claim within 90 days of the incident. This allows the public entity time to process the claim and (typically) offer you a settlement before the courts get involved. Minors who have grounds for a claim against a public entity must file suit within 90 days of their 18th birthday (or 13th birthday if the claim is birth injury-related).
Remember, the laws may change at any time so research current laws or consult with an experienced injury attorney about your case.