Nothing lasts forever, including your right to sue for an injury. If you are injured in New Jersey, you must file suit within two years of the date on which you were injured. If you fail to do so, you may permanently lose your right to sue.

There are many circumstances that could make your right to sue last a little longer, and a couple of conditions that might end your right even sooner. Circumstances that might extend the statutory period include:

  • Latent injury — This means you’ve been hurt, but you don’t know it yet. New Jersey has a discovery rule to cover cases where the victim is unaware that a negligent act has occurred and/or that harm has resulted. This comes up often in medical malpractice cases, where a surgeon makes a mistake, but the pain of the surgery and the recovery period masks the signs that something is not right. The patient may not discover the injury for months or even years. Likewise, prescription drugs that turn out to be dangerous can cause problems years after the patient stopped taking them. In these cases, the statute of limitations only begins when the patient discovers or should reasonably have discovered the injury.
  • Child’s injury — Since a child lacks the legal capacity to file a lawsuit, the statute of limitations is tolled (stopped) until the child reaches his or her 18th
  • Insane victim — The statute of limitations is tolled during periods of insanity until the victim regains the mental capacity to prosecute the lawsuit.
  • Bankrupt victim — A victim’s right to sue is an asset that belongs to the bankruptcy estate and can be sold to settle debts. However, that asset would have little value if the buyer would be locked out of court by the statute of limitations. Therefore, the Bankruptcy Code tolls the statute of limitations during bankruptcy proceedings.

Unfortunately, there are also legal provisions that can shut you out of court sooner. For example, if the defendant in your injury case is a public entity, you must file a notice of claim within 90 of the incident. There is also a statute of repose that bars claims after a certain number of years, regardless of when the injury event occurred. For example, if you were injured in a slip and fall because of a defect in an improvement a contractor made to your property, you would have to check when that improvement was made. If the improvement is more than 10 years old, you cannot sue, regardless of the contractor’s fault or the harm you’ve suffered.

If you’ve been injured due to someone’s negligence, you should consult an attorney as quickly as possible. Brown, Novick & McKinley is ready to stand by your side. To schedule a free consultation at our Woodbury, New Jersey office, call 856-845-7898  or contact us online.