What is the Personal Injury Statute of Limitations in Texas?

Understand and comply with the Texas statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits; miss the filing deadline set by this law and your case will almost certainly be dismissed.

By , J.D., University of San Francisco School of Law

Whether you've been involved in a slip-and-fall, a traffic accident, or any other incident where someone else caused you harm, you could be thinking about filing a personal injury lawsuit in Texas's civil court system. If so, it's crucial to familiarize yourself with the statute of limitations for this types of case. (In case you're not fluent in "legalese," 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 Texas'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.

Two Years is the Standard Time Limit for Texas Personal Injury Lawsuits

The Texas personal injury statute of limitations is spelled out at Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code section 16.003, which says that any civil action for "personal injury" must be filed "not later than two years after the day the cause of action accrues" -- that means two years from the date of the accident that led to the injury, in most instances.

So if, after another person's careless or intentional act causes you injury, you want to ask Texas's courts for a civil remedy (damages) for your losses, this two-year deadline applies, whether the case is driven by the liability principle of "negligence" (which applies to most accidents) or intentional tort (which applies to civil assault and battery and other purposeful conduct).

What If You Miss the Filing Deadline?

If more than two years have passed since the underlying accident, but you try to file your personal injury lawsuit anyway, the defendant (the person you're trying to sue) will almost certainly file a "motion to dismiss" and point this fact out to the court. And unless a rare exception entitles you to extra time (more details on these exceptions later), the court will summarily dismiss your case. Once that happens, you've lost your right to ask a court to award you damages for your injuries, no matter how significant they might be, and no matter how obvious the defendant's liability.

Texas's personal injury statute of limitations is obviously pivotal if you want to take your injury case to court via a formal lawsuit, but the filing deadline set by this law is also crucial to your position in personal injury settlement negotiations with the defendant and his or her insurance company. If the other side knows that the two-year deadline has passed, you'll have lost all your negotiating leverage, making "I'll see you in court" the very definition of an empty threat.

Exceptions to the Texas Personal Injury Statute of Limitations

Texas 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. Here are some examples of circumstances that are likely to modify the standard timeline:

  • If the injured person is "under a legal disability" according to Texas law -- meaning he or she under the age of 18 or "of unsound mind" -- at the time of the underlying accident or incident that caused the injuries, the two-year "clock" probably won't start running until the period of legal disability is over (the injured person turns 18 or becomes mentally competent). (Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code section 16.001)
  • If, at some point after the underlying accident, and before the lawsuit can be filed, the person who allegedly caused the plaintiff's injuries (the defendant) leaves the state of Texas, the period of absence won't be counted as part of the two years. (Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code section 16.063).

If you have questions about how the Texas 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 Texas personal injury attorney.

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