Utah Personal Injury Laws and Statutes of Limitations

The basics of Utah personal injury law—time limits to sue, damage caps, special rules for claims against the government, comparative negligence, and more.

By , Attorney University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Law
Updated 5/27/2024

Chances are you found your way here because you were injured in Utah. You're thinking about an insurance claim or a personal injury lawsuit, but you have questions about Utah law. How long do I have to file a lawsuit? If I decide to sue, where do I file my case? I might be partly to blame for my injuries. What does that mean for my case?

Starting with Utah's filing deadlines, commonly called "statutes of limitations," we've got answers to those questions—and more.

Utah Personal Injury Statutes of Limitations

A "statute of limitations" is a law that limits your time to file a lawsuit in court. Miss the filing deadline and, unless there's a rule that gives you more time, your legal claim is dead. In other words, the statute of limitations is a claim killer. That's its only job, and it does that job very well.

Utah has several statutes of limitations that cover different personal injury claims. We begin with the state's four-year general rule.

Utah's Personal Injury General Rule: Four Years From the Date You Were Injured

Utah's personal injury general rule—the filing deadline that applies to most cases—is Utah Code § 78B-2-307 (2024). You have four years, usually starting on the date you were injured, to file your personal injury lawsuit in court.

What kinds of cases are covered by this rule? Here's a partial list of the most common types:

Other Utah Personal Injury Statutes of Limitations

Utah's general four-year statute of limitations isn't a one-size-fits-all rule. Here are some other personal injury filing deadlines that apply in specific cases.

Product liability. When you're injured by a dangerous or defective product, Utah Code § 78B-6-706 (2024) says you must sue within two years from the earlier of the date:

  • you discovered your injury and what caused it, or
  • you should have discovered your injury and what caused it, had you made a reasonably diligent investigation.

Wrongful death. Personal injuries sometimes cause death. When that happens, surviving family members might decide to file a Utah wrongful death lawsuit. The filing deadline is two years, most often from the date of death. (Utah Code § 78B-2-304(2) (2024).)

Medical malpractice. Utah health care malpractice cases are subject to special filing deadlines. You must file suit within two years from the earlier of the date:

  • you discover your malpractice-related injury, or
  • you should have discovered your malpractice-related injury, had you been reasonably diligent to look for signs and symptoms.

This "discovery rule," as it's sometimes called, might give you more time to file when you don't realize right away you've been injured. But there's a catch. Utah has a second deadline, called a "statute of repose," that limits the time you have to discover your injury. The latest you can sue for medical malpractice is four years from the date of the malpractice—whether you discover your injury or not.

There are two exceptions to the statute of repose. It doesn't apply when:

  • you're injured by a foreign object mistakenly left in your body, or
  • the health care provider takes active steps to fraudulently conceal the malpractice from you.

In both cases, you have one year from the date you discover what happened to file your case in court.

(Utah Code § 78B-3-404 (2024).)

What Happens If I Miss Utah's Filing Deadline?

For starters, don't simply conclude that you missed the deadline until you speak to a Utah personal injury lawyer. Utah law sometimes extends the limitation period, giving you more time to sue. An attorney can look at the facts of your case and let you know if an extension might apply.

If the statute of limitations has run out and no extension is available, then your legal claim is dead. Nothing you do will bring it back to life. File a lawsuit and the court will dismiss it as untimely. The other side won't negotiate a settlement with you because you no longer have a claim to settle. You've lost the right to collect compensation ("damages," in the language of the law) for your injuries.

Utah's No-Fault Auto Insurance System

Utah is one of about a dozen states to adopt a no-fault auto insurance system. When you're hurt in a Utah car wreck, you first look to your own personal injury protection (PIP) coverage, which will pay at least:

  • $3,000 for your medical expenses
  • the lesser of 85% of your gross income or $250 per week for lost earnings, for up to 52 weeks, and
  • $20 per day for replacement household services, for a maximum of 365 days.

Your PIP will also pay some funeral and burial expenses and survivors' benefits if a covered person is killed.

(See Utah Code §§ 31A-22-302(1)(d), 31A-22-307(1) (2024).)

But PIP won't cover all of your personal injury damages. Specifically, it doesn't pay for "noneconomic" damages—for things like pain and suffering, disfigurement, emotional distress, and other injuries that don't directly cost you out of pocket.

To recover those damages, you'll need to file an insurance claim or a car accident lawsuit against the responsible driver. Under Utah's no-fault law, you're allowed to do that only when your injuries meet one of the injury-severity thresholds found in Utah Code § 31A-22-309(1)(a) (2024). A Utah car accident lawyer can fill you in on the details.

(Learn more about Utah's no-fault auto insurance law.)

What Happens If You're Partly to Blame for Your Injuries?

In the usual personal injury case, you win damages by proving that the defendant (the party you're suing) was negligent. In most cases, the defendant will turn around and claim that you were negligent, too. Why? The defendant is raising a defense called "comparative negligence." If it succeeds, comparative negligence will reduce (or might even eliminate completely) the damages you can collect.

Utah follows a version of the comparative negligence defense. Here's how it works.

Utah's Modified Comparative Negligence Rule

Utah has adopted a modified version of the comparative negligence defense. You can collect some damages for your injuries, but only if you weren't 50% or more to blame. Up to the 50% threshold, your percentage share of the negligence simply reduces the damages you get. When you're 50% or more at fault, you can't collect any damages. (Utah Code § 78B-5-818 (2024).)

Example: Utah's Modified Comparative Negligence Rule

While grocery shopping one evening, you tripped and fell on a broken floor tile in one of the store aisles, breaking your kneecap. You sued the store for negligence. The store answered that your comparative negligence contributed to cause your injuries and should bar you from collecting any damages.

After a trial, the jurors decided that the store was 90% negligent, but they agreed that you were 10% negligent. They assessed your total damages at $300,000. How much can you collect?

Because you were 10% negligent, you can recover 90% of your damages: $300,000 x 90% = $270,000. The store's insurer will write you a check for that amount. How much would you get had the jury found you 50% or more negligent? Under Utah's modified comparative negligence defense, you'd get nothing.

Where Do I File a Utah Personal Injury Lawsuit?

In Utah, the court of original, general jurisdiction—meaning the court where most criminal and civil cases start—is called the District Court. Personal injury cases are a type of civil case. Nearly all of them are filed in the District Court. That's likely where yours will be filed, too.

When you're asking for a limited amount of damages, you can file a small claims case. Under Utah Code § 78A-8-102(1)(a) (2024), small claims court is an option when your damages aren't more than:

  • $15,000, through December 31, 2024
  • $20,000, from January 1, 2025 through December 31, 2029, and
  • $25,000, on or after January 1, 2030.

(Learn more about how to present your small claims case to a judge.)

Select the Proper Venue

As a rule, you can't simply file your personal injury lawsuit in any county you choose. You must select the proper "venue," or location. When the defendant is an individual living in Utah, you can file in the county where:

  • the defendant resides or,
  • your injuries happened.

(Utah Code § 78B-3a-201(1) (2024).)

Different rules apply when you're suing a business. (Utah Code § 78B-3a-104 (2024).) The same is true for suits against the government. (Utah Code § 63G-7-502 (2024).)

Think About Hiring a Lawyer

Your personal injury case in the District Court will be subject to an often-times confusing array of court rules, including Utah's Rules of Civil Procedure and Rules of Evidence. Chances are you're not familiar with these rules, but you can bet that the defendant's lawyer knows them well.

Without experienced legal representation on your side, you're at a significant disadvantage. Think about hiring counsel to prepare, file, and handle your personal injury case.

The Government Caused My Injury—Can I Sue?

The short answer is: Sometimes, yes, you can sue the government for your injuries. The complete answer is more complicated. Suing the government isn't like suing your neighbor or a local business. You'll have to contend with:

  • government immunities, meaning protections against being sued
  • special pre-lawsuit notice requirements and filing deadlines, and
  • limits on the damages you can collect, even if you win.

Before you bring a claim or a lawsuit, seek advice from an experienced Utah government claims attorney. Without that help, you'll quickly find yourself in over your head.

Government Immunity From Lawsuits

Utah, like all states, is protected from lawsuits by a rule called "sovereign immunity." In a nutshell, sovereign immunity means Utah—and its political subdivisions like counties, cities, towns, and school districts—can't be sued for injuries unless the government "waives" (gives up) its immunity. (Utah Code § 63G-7-201 (2024).)

Utah has partially waived immunity for itself and its political subdivisions, but only in specific cases. For example, you can sue the government for certain injuries caused by a dangerous highway, road, sidewalk, or public building. (Utah Code § 63G-7-301(2)(h) (2024).) The government also agrees to be held responsible for some injuries caused by employee negligence. (Utah Code § 63G-7-301(2)(i) (2024).)

Pre-Filing Notice and the Statute of Limitations

Before you can sue Utah or one of its political subdivisions, you first must provide the government with written notice of your injury. The notice must describe how your injury happened and the damages you claim, and should identify any government employee who was involved. (See Utah Code § 63G-7-401(2)-(3)(a) (2024).) Sign and deliver the notice as required by Utah Code § 63G-7-401(3) (2024).

You must deliver the notice as required by law within one year "after the claim arises... ." (Utah Code § 63G-7-402 (2024).) A claim arises, and the statute of limitations (see below) starts to run, when you knew or had you done a reasonably diligent investigation you should have known:

  • you had a claim against a government entity or a government employee, and
  • the identity of the government entity or its employee.

(Utah Code § 63G-7-401(1) (2024).)

Once you deliver your notice of claim, you must wait at least 60 days before you can file a lawsuit. (Utah Code § 63G-7-403(2)(a) (2024).) Note, importantly, that the statute of limitations is two years from the date your claim arises (see above). (Utah Code § 63G-7-403(2)(b) (2024).) Speak to a lawyer about your options when the 60-day waiting period overlaps with the statute of limitations.

Damage Limits

Even if you win your case against the government, the damages you can collect will be limited. Except in medical malpractice cases (see below), for any single occurrence, the government's liability is capped at:

  • $583,900 for personal injuries per individual, and
  • $3,000,000 in the aggregate for all personal injuries and property damages.

(Utah Code § 63G-7-604(1) (2024).)

These limits are adjusted biannually, in even-numbered years. (Utah Code § 63G-7-605(2) (2024).)

Utah Caps Damages in Medical Malpractice Lawsuits

Utah, like many states, limits the damages you're allowed to collect in a medical malpractice case. Specifically, noneconomic damages are capped at $450,000. (Utah Code § 78B-3-410(1) (2024).) This cap also applies to medical malpractice claims brought against the government. (Utah Code § 78B-3-415 (2024).)

So, what does this cap mean? In a Utah medical malpractice case, no matter how serious, permanent, or disabling your injuries might be—and regardless of how much more than $450,000 in noneconomic damages a jury might award you—the court must reduce your damages for pain and suffering, emotional distress, and similar injuries to that amount.

Utah's cap doesn't apply to economic damages for losses like medical bills, lost wages, and other out-of-pocket costs.

Get Help With Your Utah Personal Injury Case

We've covered some of Utah's personal injury law basics. If you've been injured and you're considering a claim or a lawsuit, there's much more you should know. A Utah personal injury lawyer knows Utah's laws, court rules and procedures, and how injury settlement negotiations usually work. Your best chance for a favorable result will come from having legal help in your corner.

When you're ready to move forward with your case, here's how to find an attorney near you.

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