If you suffered an injury due to someone else’s misconduct, you can usually assert a personal injury claim to recover compensation. You might enforce it through private settlement, as most claimants do, or you might enforce it in court.
Suppose you fail to file a lawsuit or secure the defendant’s signature on a settlement agreement by a certain date. In that case, the statute of limitations deadline will expire, and you will never be able to enforce it.
What the Statute of Limitations Does
You wouldn’t want to defend yourself against a claim that arose in 1963, would you? If you were a judge or a jury, you wouldn’t want to make a decision on a claim that arose so long ago that the evidence has grown stale and the witnesses are all dead or have forgotten the details of the incident.
The statute of limitations deadline prevents this from happening so that evidence will remain fresh, witnesses will remember what they saw and heard, and defendants will not be held to account for a matter that should have been resolved long ago.
What You Have to Do To Meet the Statute of Limitations Deadline
To meet the statute of limitations deadline, take the following steps before the deadline arrives:
- File a formal written complaint with the clerk of the appropriate court.
- File a summons with the clerk. A summons is an official notification to the defendant that you are filing a lawsuit against them.
- Pay the court filing fees.
- Arrange for a court official to personally deliver a summons and a copy of your complaint to the defendant. This procedure is known as the “service of process.” You must diligently pursue the service of process to beat the statute of limitations deadline.
Missing even one of these steps, or committing a serious error in executing them, could kill your claim if the statute of limitations deadline passes before you can remedy the defect.
What Happens if You Miss the Deadline?
If you miss the statute of limitations deadline and try to sue anyway, the opposing party will file a Motion to Dismiss with the judge, and the judge will dismiss your claim. In other words, the judge will kick your claim out of court. Under certain circumstances, however, exceptions apply (see below).
The Statute of Limitations and Settlement Negotiations
You might think that even if the judge dismissed your case, you could still try to negotiate an out-of-court settlement with the defendant or the insurance company. Unfortunately, this strategy won’t work either.
There are only two ways to enforce a claim—win in court or file a contract lawsuit based on a signed settlement agreement. If the defendant knows you cannot win in court, they can safely ignore you, and you will never receive a dime for your claim.
The Nevada Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations
The Nevada personal injury statute of limitations states that you have two years from the date that an injury occurs to file a personal injury lawsuit. If the victim dies and you seek to file a wrongful death lawsuit, the two-year countdown begins at the date of death, not the date of injury. Please see below for a list of exceptions.
Several exceptions apply to Nevada’s two-year personal injury statute of limitations:
The Discovery Rule
The discovery “tolls” (pauses) the statute of limitations. This means that the statute of limitations clock doesn’t start counting down from two years to zero until the date that you actually discover your injury or should have discovered it. Imagine a doctor leaving a medical instrument inside your body, for example. It might be some time before you realize what happened. It is this kind of situation that the discovery rule is designed to handle.
In Nevada, the medical malpractice statute of limitations deadline is three years after the injury or one year after you know or should know of the injury, whichever occurs first.
Exception To the Exception: Medical Malpractice Claims on Behalf of Children
- If a medical malpractice injury involves brain damage to a child or a birth injury, the statute of limitations does not expire until the child reaches ten years old. It could be even later if the three-year statute of limitations hasn’t expired by the time the child reaches ten. The child will forfeit their claim if their parent or guardian fails to file a lawsuit or reach a final settlement before the statute of limitations deadline expires.
- If the child became sterile, the deadline is two years after the child discovers or should have discovered their sterility.
Although a child cannot file a lawsuit in their own name, a parent or court-appointed guardian can.
A product liability claim arises when a manufactured product injures someone. Imagine windshield wipers failing during heavy rain and causing an auto accident, for example. Suppose you seek to sue over a defective product injury. In that case, you have until three years after the injury or two years after you discovered or should have discovered the injury, whichever comes later.
Another Exception To the Exception: Construction or Real Estate Improvements
If you suffer an injury from defective construction or a real estate improvement, you cannot file a lawsuit once ten years have passed since the completion of construction or improvements. This is a hard deadline. It doesn’t matter when you discovered your injury, you must sue or settle within ten years.
Minors (Victims Under 18 Years Old)
Since a minor cannot file a lawsuit, the incapacity tolls the statute of limitations until the child’s 18th birthday. This gives the child until their 20th birthday to file a personal injury lawsuit. These rules do not apply to a medical malpractice claim, however.
Special Cases: Workers’ Compensation Claims and Claims Against the Government
If you suffer a workplace injury, workers’ compensation probably covers your claim, and you probably cannot file a lawsuit over it. Instead, you must seek compensation from your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance policy.
Generally, you have seven days to report an injury to your employer and 90 days to file a claim. You don’t have to prove that your employer was at fault to win.
When you sue a government department (state, local, or federal), you are also subject to additional, sometimes shorter, deadlines. You may also face additional procedural hurdles.
Schedule a Free Initial Consultation With a Personal Injury Lawyer
Almost any personal injury lawyer offers a free initial consultation. This could occur over the phone, in the lawyer’s office, at your home, or even in the hospital. The lawyer will determine whether your claim has a chance of winning and how much money it is worth. Since that is also what you will want to know, that puts you on the same side.