What is the Car Accident Statute of Limitations in Minnesota?
First, let’s back up and explain that a “statute of limitations” is a state law that sets a limit on the amount of time you have to go to court and file a lawsuit. Each state has different deadlines -- almost always measured in years -- that vary based on the kind of harm or loss that was suffered, or the kind of case you want to file.
In Minnesota, the time limit that will apply to a vehicle accident case differs depending on whether the accident resulted in injury or in death.
If anyone was injured in the accident -- whether a driver, a passenger, a motorcycle rider, a pedestrian, or a bicyclist -- they must get their civil lawsuit filed within two years of the date of the accident, according to Minnesota Statutes section 541.07.
But if the accident caused someone’s death, and the family or other representative of the deceased person wants to bring a Minnesota wrongful death lawsuit against the at-fault driver, that case must be filed within three years, and the “clock” starts on the date of the person’s death, if it is different from the date of the accident. That deadline is part of Minnesota’s wrongful death law, which you can find at Minnesota Statutes section 573.02.
Either way, whether the accident resulted in injury or death, the case will usually turn on the plaintiff’s ability to prove that one of the drivers was negligent. Learn more about Car Accidents Caused by Negligence.
Having read all of this, you may be wondering what happens if you try to file your lawsuit after Minnesota’s statute of limitations deadline has passed. In that situation, the person you’re trying to sue (the defendant) will ask the court to dismiss the case, and the court will almost certainly agree that a dismissal is appropriate. That’s why it’s so important to understand the filing deadline and how it applies to your situation.
A final note on strategy: It’s always a good idea to leave yourself plenty of time to file a car accident lawsuit, even if you’re confident that your case will be resolved through an insurance settlement. At the very least, you’ll have more leverage during settlement discussions if the other side knows you have the option of taking the case to court. If the filing deadline is approaching, it may be time to contact an experienced Minnesota car accident attorney.
by: David Goguen, J.D.