What is the Car Accident Statute of Limitations in Texas?

An injured person's right to file a Texas car accident lawsuit hinges on compliance with the statute of limitations.

By , J.D., University of San Francisco School of Law
A "statute of limitations" is a law that sets a time limit on the right to take legal action. After a car accident, a statute of limitations determines the deadline by which a lawsuit must be filed by anyone seeking compensation for crash-related losses.

Texas Car Accident Lawsuit Filing Deadlines

In Texas, the statute of limitations that will apply to a car accident lawsuit depends on whether the action is over injuries, vehicle damage, or someone's death.

Remember, even if you're pretty sure your case will be resolved through the car insurance claim process, it's always a good idea to leave yourself plenty of time to file a lawsuit if you need to. That'll give you more leverage during settlement negotiations.

The Texas Car Accident Injury Lawsuit Deadline

The statute of limitations deadline for most injury-related car accident lawsuits is the same as the larger one that applies to most kinds of personal injury cases in Texas. Specifically, according to Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code section 16.003, any claim for injury—whether filed by a driver, passenger, motorcyclist, bicyclist, electric scooter rider, or pedestrian—must be filed within two years of the date of the accident.

The same two-year deadline applies if you are filing a lawsuit over vehicle damage.

Texas Wrongful Death Law and Car Accident Lawsuits

If someone died as a result of the accident, and their family member or other representative wants to file a Texas wrongful death lawsuit against the at-fault driver who caused the crash, the two-year deadline likely applies, but under Texas law the running of the clock could be paused or "tolled" for up to one year. And keep in mind that the "clock" doesn't start running until the date of the deceased person's death, which might be different from the date of the accident.

What If I Miss the Texas Car Accident Statute of Limitations Deadline?

If the statute of limitations deadline has passed, but you try to file your lawsuit anyway, the person you're trying to sue will be all too happy to bring this to the court's attention. They'll bring a motion to dismiss, and the court will almost certainly grant it, unless a rare exception applies to alter the deadline.

In Texas, the statute of limitations deadline for filing a car accident lawsuit might be extended in situations where:

  • the person who was injured in the crash is or was "under a legal disability" when the accident happened or at some point afterward (meaning they were under 18 or "of unsound mind"); here, the two-year "clock" probably won't start running until the period of legal disability is over (meaning the injured person turns 18 or becomes mentally competent), or
  • the person who allegedly caused the accident leaves the state before a lawsuit can be filed against them; here, the time of absence probably won't count as part of the statute of limitations period.

What If Government Negligence Caused My Texas Car Accident?

If you were injured and/or had your vehicle damaged in an incident that was pretty clearly caused by the negligence of a government employee in Texas—you were rear-ended by a city bus, for example—any claim you file will need to follow a special set of rules.

You'll need to provide notice of your claim within a shorter time limit (usually six months), and give the state or municipality a chance to respond to your allegations. Learn more about filing a claim under the Texas Tort Claims Act.

More Information and Help After a Texas Car Accident

If you're thinking about taking legal action after a car accident, get the details on more Texas laws that could affect your car accident case.

If you have questions about the statute of limitations, or if the filing deadline is coming up, it might make sense to contact an experienced legal professional. Learn more about when you might need a car accident lawyer.

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