If you've been involved in a slip-and-fall, a car accident, or any other incident where someone else's conduct caused you harm in Minnesota, you may be thinking about filing a personal injury lawsuit in the state's civil courts. If so, it's crucial to understand and comply with the statute of limitations for these types of cases. (A statute of limitations is a law that sets a strictly-enforced time limit on your right to file a lawsuit in court.)
In this article, we'll cover the details of Minnesota's personal injury statute of limitations, explain why the deadline is so important, and summarize a few instances when the filing period might be extended.
The statute of limitations that will apply to your Minnesota personal injury lawsuit can be found at Minnesota Statutes section 541.07, which sets a two-year deadline for the filing of any civil lawsuit arising from "libel, slander, assault, battery, false imprisonment, or other tort resulting in personal injury."
This two-year deadline includes 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 defamation or assault).
So, if another person's careless or intentional act has caused you injury, and you want to ask a Minnesota court for a civil remedy (damages) for your losses, you have two years to get the initial documentation (the "complaint" and other required paperwork) filed in court, and the "clock" starts running on the date of the underlying accident.
If the two-year deadline has passed, but you try to file your personal injury lawsuit anyway, the defendant will almost certainly 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.
Minnesota's personal injury statute of limitations is obviously a key consideration if you want to take your injury case to court by way of a formal lawsuit, but the statutory filing deadline is also crucial to your position in personal injury settlement negotiations with the defendant and his or her insurance company. If you've allowed the filing 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.
Minnesota has identified a number of different scenarios that might delay the running of the statute of limitations "clock," or pause the clock after it has started to run, effectively extending the filing deadline.
For example, if the injured person is legally insane or under the age of 18 at the time of the underlying accident, the statute of limitations "clock" probably won't start running until the period of legal disability is over (meaning the injured person turns 18 or has their mental competence restored). But keep in mind that the filing deadline won't be extended more than five years based on insanity, and once the period of disability is over, the lawsuit must be filed within one year. (Minnesota Statutes section 541.15.)
Next, if at some point after the incident giving rise to the injury, and before a lawsuit can be filed, the potential defendant (the person responsible) "departs from and resides out of" Minnesota, and cannot be served with the lawsuit, the time of absence probably won't be counted as part of the two-year filing period (the "clock" won't run during this time, in other words). (Minnesota Statutes section 541.13.)
If you have questions about how the Minnesota 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 Minnesota personal injury attorney.