How These Laws Affect the Viability of Your Claim
If you are injured in a Colorado auto accident, you might be considering whether to bring a personal injury lawsuit. But you don’t have an unlimited amount of time to decide: Your deadline is dictated by what is called a statute of limitations.
A statute of limitations is a law that sets the maximum time allowed for a party to initiate legal proceedings. The time is calculated from the day of the accident forward. In Colorado, the statute of limitations for negligence — accidents, slip and falls, and other civil torts — is two years, or three years if the accident involved a motor vehicle. If a personal injury action is not filed in court before this time expires, the potential lawsuit will likely be dismissed.
What Is the Purpose of a Statute of Limitations?
The purpose of a statute of limitations is to improve justice by preventing the unexpected enforcement of outdated claims. There are several reasons why states enacted such laws:
- An injured person with a valid cause of action should pursue it within a reasonable amount of time.
- When a case is filed after an extended period of time, sufficient evidence, witnesses, and memories to prove or disprove the claim may have been lost.
- Litigation of a stale claim could result in an injustice.
For the purposes of a statute of limitations, a “stale” claim could be one in which the relevant evidence has deteriorated; the legal and cultural standards have changed since the events occurred; the defendant changed his position and the assertion of the claim would be unfair to him; or an extremely long period of time has passed between the event and the initiation of the lawsuit.
Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations
If an injured person doesn’t realize that he was harmed until years later, a legal doctrine known as the discovery of harm rule allows the statute of limitations to begin to run from the time the injury was discovered, not when it actually happened.
Other instances when a statute of limitations might be avoided include:
- The injured person was below the age of majority at the time of the event. According to Colorado law, the statute of limitations will begin to run on a minor’s 18th
- The injured party lacked mental competence or was disabled.
- The defendant filed bankruptcy, which will toll the statute of limitations until the bankruptcy is concluded.
Our state recognizes the discovery of harm exception and will allow the deadline to file a Colorado personal injury lawsuit to be drawn out if the injured person did not have knowledge of the injury itself, or did not know that the defendant’s wrongful act could have caused their injury.
Any delay in the discovery of an injury must be considered reasonable. If a person was experiencing pain after an injury but consciously decided against seeking medical treatment, this might be construed as failure to mitigate his damages and prevent him or her from filing a lawsuit later.
Because the exceptions to the statute of limitations for personal injury in Colorado are rather specific, you should never assume that they would automatically apply to your case. Instead, contact a Colorado personal injury attorney to ensure that you will be able to bring a lawsuit, should you decide to do so.