What Is the Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Cases in Alabama?
It doesn’t matter where you live, every state has something called the statute of limitations. This is the law that lays out exactly how long you have to file suit. Some states give you a lot of time to sue. Others expect you to do so within a year. It all depends on the type of case you’re dealing with. Here, we’ll discuss the statute of limitations in Alabama. It’s crucial that you file suit before the deadline, or your lawsuit will be dismissed. Make sure you talk to an experienced Birmingham personal injury lawyer early enough that you won’t miss the deadline.
Why Do States Have a Statute of Limitations in the First Place?
It may not seem fair that an accident victim should be held to a filing deadline. The courts have good reason for this. They don’t want to deal with a case that has gone stale. After a year or two, evidence starts to become stale. Witnesses disappear or forget what they saw. Doctors retire and medical records get lost. They would much rather deal with fresh evidence than sift through years’ worth of paperwork.
The other reason there is a statute of limitations period is to protect defendants. The courts don’t think it’s fair for a defendant to be blindsided. If you’re going to sue, they expect you to do this within a certain period of time. They don’t want a defendant to be caught off guard. They also don’t think it’s fair to expect them to be able to defend a lawsuit after several years. Once they presumed you weren’t going to file suit, they had no reason to hold on to their own evidence. This is why the courts only give you so much time to file suit.
Are There Different Deadlines for Different Types of Cases?
Most personal injury cases carry a statute of limitations of just two (2) years. The clock starts running on the day of your accident or incident. There are different statutes periods depending on the type of civil case you’re filing. Here is a breakdown of the more common types of lawsuits filed in Alabama:
- Personal property damage – 2 years
- Professional malpractice – 2 years
- Libel and slander – 2 years
- Wrongful death – 2 years from date of death
What Happens If You Miss the Statute of Limitations?
The courts are really strict when it comes to the statute of limitations. If you miss this deadline by even one day, they’ll dismiss your case. Even if they don’t, the defendant’s attorney will file a motion to dismiss. This motion has to be granted if you really have missed the statute of limitations period. There are very few exceptions to this rule. In order to get an extension, your Birmingham personal injury lawyer will have to prove the following:
- You were a minor at the time of your accident
- You were suffering from a mental disability
- the defendant fraudulently avoided being served
Unless you meet one of these criteria, your filing period will not be extended. There’s nothing your lawyer can do to fix this.
Make Sure to Call an Experienced Birmingham Personal Injury Lawyer Sooner Rather than Later
Knowing that there are filing deadlines in Alabama, it’s a good idea to call your Birmingham personal injury lawyer sooner rather than later. You want to give your attorney ample time to prepare your case. It takes time to review your case and find out who you need to pursue. It can also take time to put the evidence together in order to prove fault. Your lawyer needs to gather medical records and expert opinions. They also want to have enough time to try to negotiate a settlement of your claim. If you wait until the last minute, this won’t be possible.
As much as it seems like you have all the time in the world, you really don’t. Time flies by. If you’re getting medical treatment, you may feel overwhelmed for quite a while. By the time you’re feeling up to dealing with your legal issues, a year or two could have passed. Rather than back yourself (and your attorney) into a corner, reach out to one as soon as possible. You can call and schedule your free initial consultation at any time. Sit down with someone who’s handled cases like yours before. They can answer any questions you may have and give you an idea of what yours is worth.