What is the Car Accident Statute of Limitations in Hawaii?
First, for those whose legalese is a little rusty, we should explain that a “statute of limitations” is simply a state law that puts a time limit on your right to go to civil court and file a lawsuit after you have suffered some type of harm. There are different deadlines depending on what type of case you want to file.
Hawaii Revised Statutes section 657-7 will set the filing deadline for almost all lawsuits arising from a car accident. This statute says: “Actions for the recovery of compensation for damage or injury to persons or property shall be instituted within two years after the cause of action accrued, and not after."
Let’s put this law in the context of a vehicle accident. That means if anyone was hurt in the crash -- whether a driver, passenger, motorcycle rider, bicyclist, or pedestrian -- or had their vehicle or other personal property damaged, they must get their lawsuit filed against any potential defendant within two years. For these injury and property damage cases, the two-year “clock” starts running on the date of the accident.
If someone died as a result of the car accident, and their family member or a representative of the estate wants to file a wrongful death claim, the same two-year deadline applies, but the “clock” starts running on the day of the accident victim’s death, which could be later than the date of the accident itself.
(Keep in mind that any kind of lawsuit after a car accident will almost certainly hinge on whether someone’s negligence was the cause of the crash. Learn more about Proving Fault for a Car Accident.)
It’s crucial to understand how the statute of limitations applies to your situation. If you try to file your lawsuit after the statute of limitations deadline has already passed, the defendant is sure to ask the court to dismiss the case, and the court is very likely to agree that a dismissal is appropriate.
You want to leave yourself plenty of time to file a lawsuit, even if you’re confident that your case will settle. At the very least, keeping all your options on the table will give you more leverage during settlement talks. So if the two-year deadline is approaching, it may be time to talk with an experienced Hawaii car accident attorney.
by: David Goguen, J.D.