After a car accident, a slip-and-fall, or any other incident in which someone else's conduct caused you harm in Louisiana, you could be considering filing a personal injury lawsuit. If so, it's crucial to understand and comply with the statute of limitations that applies to these types of cases.
As background, a statute of limitations is a law that sets a strictly-enforced time limit on your right to file a lawsuit in civil court. Every state has these kinds of laws on the books, with deadlines that differ depending on the kind of case being filed.
In this article, we'll explain how Louisiana's statute of limitations for personal injury cases works, and why the filing deadline is so important.
The statute of limitations that will apply to your Louisiana personal injury lawsuit can be found at Louisiana Civil Code section 3492, which says: "Delictual actions are subject to a liberative prescription of one year. This prescription commences to run from the day injury or damage is sustained."
Let's cut through the legalese, shall we? A "delictual action" can be defined as any lawsuit over some kind of harm. So, when it comes to any civil lawsuit seeking a civil remedy (damages) after an injury caused by someone else, section 3492 says it must be filed within one year. This one-year deadline applies to personal injury cases driven by the liability principle of "negligence" (which applies to claims filed after a car accident, slip and fall incident, and other mishaps) and intentional tort (such as civil lawsuits over an assault).
Finally, the "prescription commences" language in section 3492 simply means that Louisiana’s one-year statute of limitations "clock" starts running on the date of the underlying accident or incident.
If the one-year filing deadline has passed, but you try to bring your personal injury lawsuit to court anyway, the defendant (the person you're trying to sue) will almost certainly point this out and ask the court to dismiss your case. And unless a rare exception entitles you to extra time (we'll discuss a few of these exceptions later), the court will grant the dismissal.
Louisiana's personal injury statute of limitations is obviously crucial if you want to take your injury case to court by way of a formal lawsuit, but the statutory filing deadline is also pivotal to your position in personal injury settlement negotiations with the defendant and his or her insurance company. One year can go by in a hurry, and if you've allowed the deadline to pass without getting your lawsuit filed, and the other side knows it, you'll have lost all your negotiating leverage. After all, "I'll see you in court" becomes an empty threat when that same court is no longer an option for your dispute.
One of the most common situations that might pause the running of the statute of limitations clock is found right in section 3492, where it says that the prescription period "does not run against minors," meaning a person who was under the age of 18 at the time of the underlying accident or incident.
Also, with injuries resulting from a defective product, where the plaintiff doesn't know of the true nature or cause of the injury, the statute of limitations "clock" might not begin to run until that information is "reasonably discoverable."
If you have questions about how the Louisiana statute of limitations applies to your personal injury case -- especially if the deadline is fast-approaching or has already passed -- it may be time to discuss your situation with an experienced Louisiana personal injury attorney.