What is the Car Accident Statute of Limitations in Texas?
First, in case your legalese is a little rusty, a “statute of limitations” is a state law that sets a strict time limit on your right to file a lawsuit in civil court. The specific deadlines vary depending on what kind of lawsuit you want to file, but the time window is almost always expressed in years.
The most important thing to know about the statute of limitations is that if the deadline has passed, but you try to file your lawsuit anyway, the person you’re trying to sue will be all too happy to bring all of this to the court’s attention. They’ll bring a motion to dismiss, and the court will almost certainly grant it. That’s why it’s so important to understand how the statute of limitations deadline applies to your situation.
Now that that’s out of the way, we can tell you that in Texas, the statute of limitations deadline for most car accident lawsuits is the same as the larger one that applies to any kind of personal injury case. Specifically, according to Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code section 16.003, any claim for injury -- whether filed by a driver, passenger, motorcycle rider, bicyclist, or pedestrian -- must be filed within two years of the date of the accident.
The same two-year deadline applies if you are filing a lawsuit over vehicle damage.
If someone died as a result of the accident, and their family member or other representative wants to file a Texas wrongful death lawsuit against the at-fault driver who caused the crash, the two-year deadline likely applies, but under Texas law the running of the clock could be paused or "tolled" for up to one year. And keep in mind that the “clock” doesn't start running until the date of the deceased person’s death, which might be different from the date of the accident.
Whether your case is a standard personal injury claim or one for wrongful death, its potential for success will most likely turn on your ability to prove that someone’s negligence was the cause of the underlying crash. Learn more about Car Accidents Caused by Negligence.
Even if you’re pretty sure that your case will be resolved through the car insurance claim process, it’s always a good idea to leave yourself plenty of time to file a lawsuit if you need to. That will give you more leverage from a settlement negotiation strategy standpoint. If the filing deadline is coming up, you might want to contact an experienced Texas car accident attorney to make sure you keep all your legal options on the table.
by: David Goguen, J.D.