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Understanding the Statute of Limitations for Filing a Car Accident Lawsuit in Tennessee

When someone is injured in a car accident in Tennessee, they can recover compensation from the negligent driver in a lawsuit. However, victims have an extremely limited amount of time to file their claims in Tennessee.

Tennessee has one of the shortest statutes of limitations in the country, giving victims only one year to file their lawsuit for damages. This is an incredibly narrow window considering all the work that goes into litigating even a simple car accident case. Fortunately, there are exceptions to the one-year general rule that will allow you more time to prepare your case. However, these situations are rare, so your case should be started as quickly as possible.

If you suffered injuries in a Tennessee car accident, our personal injury attorneys can help you file your lawsuit before time runs out.

What is the Statute of Limitations for Filing a Car Accident Lawsuit in Tennessee?

The statute of limitations is legal jargon that refers to the time limit victims have to file a lawsuit after being injured in a Tennessee car accident. Unfortunately, Tennessee has one of the shortest time limits in the country. According to T.C.A. § 28-3-104, car accident victims generally have only one year from the date they were injured to file a lawsuit against a negligent party in Tennessee. Thus, it is critical that you speak with our Tennessee personal injury attorneys as soon as possible so your lawsuit can be filed in time.

The reason why it is crucial to file your lawsuit within the one-year window is that you might lose your chance to recover compensation if you do not. Suppose your case is filed after the statute of limitations passes. In that case, the defendant’s lawyers will file a motion to dismiss the case, which the court will grant absent some extenuating circumstances.

The other reason you should initiate your case quickly is to preserve the evidence you will need to prove your claim. Evidence can go missing or lose relevance over time if not procured immediately following an accident. Without evidence, you will have nothing to substantiate your claims. Our Tennessee car accident lawyers can help you gather evidence and determine if you qualify for an exception if the statute of limitations has passed in your case.

Are There Exceptions to Tennessee’s Statute of Limitations?

Like any rule in the law, there are exceptions to Tennessee’s statute of limitations. These are specific situations set out by Tennessee law in which the statute of limitations will not toll until a particular time, giving you slightly more time to file your lawsuit. However, these situations are rare, so you should consult our attorneys to see if any apply to your car accident claim.

Minor or Incompetent Victims

One of the most common exceptions to the statute of limitations is for victims who were under the age of 18 when their injuries occurred. Under T.C.A. § 28-1-106, the statute of limitations will not begin to run until the minor child reaches the age of majority, 18, at which time they will have one year to file their lawsuit.

This law also applies to victims who are considered legally incompetent and cannot file within the allotted time. However, you must prove that you were incompetent to file, which could include being involuntarily hospitalized at the time.

Medical Malpractice and Tennessee’s Discovery Rule

Another exception is for victims of medical malpractice, encoded in T.C.A. § 29-26-116. After being injured in a car accident, you will likely visit several medical professionals for various reasons. If one fails to provide the standard of care typical to their practice, they can be sued for damages.

The issue usually turns on when the malpractice is discovered. Some injuries from medical malpractice take months or even years to make themselves known, extending well beyond the one-year time limit to file a lawsuit. For this reason, Tennessee uses the “discovery rule” to determine the filing deadline. According to the discovery rule, victims will have one year from the date they knew or should have known about their injuries. However, the law also places a hard cap of three years to discover if medical malpractice occurred.

The Defendant is Absent from the State

The time limit might not toll if the driver that injured you resides outside the state. The time they were absent might not count against you but be aware of the defendant’s return as the clock will begin to run as soon as they do.

Wrongful Concealment of Evidence

In rare cases, a defendant might withhold evidence in an attempt to use the statute of limitations against you. If this type of misconduct can be shown, the court will likely not hold the time against you. In most cases, the court will usually penalize the other side for their misbehavior, which could increase the compensation the court awards you.

Criminal Charges Were Filed

In Tennessee, a civil personal injury for a car accident will need to wait if criminal charges are filed against the negligent driver. In these situations, car accident victims will have two years to file a lawsuit. However, evidence of a driver’s conviction can usually be used in your civil case.

Wrongful Death

In most cases, you will only have one year to file a lawsuit if you lose a loved one in a car accident. However, a loved one’s passing is not always immediate, so victims cannot be expected to file within the one-year window. Under certain circumstances, the statute of limitations could be extended for another 120 days or specifically set by the court to begin at the date of death. Our Tennessee personal injury attorneys can review your claim to determine how long you have to file, no matter the circumstances of your case.

Our Tennessee Car Accident Lawyers Can Help

If you were injured in a car accident and want to know how long you have to file a lawsuit, call our Nashville personal injury attorneys at Howe Law for a free case review. Contact us at (844) 876-4357.

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