When the wrongful act of another person causes you any type of personal injury, you have the right to bring legal action to compensate your for any losses. Under New Jersey law, however, you must file your personal injury claim within a specific period of time or you risk losing your right seek damages.
There are good reasons for this law, known as the “statute of limitations.” The sooner you institute legal action and begin to gather and preserve evidence, the less risk you have that witnesses will move, die or otherwise become unavailable, or that memories will falter. In addition, it’s not considered appropriate that a person should have to live an extended period of time with the threat of a lawsuit hanging over his or her head.
According to New Jersey law, the statute of limitations on a personal injury claim is “two years after the cause of any action shall have accrued, ” essentially starting on the date of the accident. The time period is the same for a wrongful death action, although the clock does not start to run until the date of death.
There may be situations, however, where you are unaware of the existence of a certain injury, for months or even years. For example, you may have incurred injury to the muscles or other connective tissue in your leg or back, but with little or no outward manifestation, or you may have been unknowingly exposed to a carcinogenic substance. Will you be precluded from filing a lawsuit if the statute of limitations expires before you discover the injury? No!
In New Jersey, as in most other states, the discovery rule applies to the statute of limitations for personal injury claims. The two-year-period will not start until you either discover the injury or, through the exercise of reasonable care, should have discovered the injury.