Personal Injury

How long do I have to file a personal injury lawsuit in Massachusetts?

By David Goguen, J.D., University of San Francisco School of Law
The Massachusetts statute of limitations sets a strict time limit on your right to file a lawsuit after an accident. Here we'll explain this deadline and why it matters.

If you think you may have a valid personal injury claim in Massachusetts, one of the first things to understand is the statute of limitations that applies to your potential case. In plain English, a “statute of limitations” is a law that puts a time limit on your right to file a lawsuit. Every state has these kinds of laws on the books, usually with different deadlines depending on the kind of case you want to file.

So, what do Massachusetts personal injury claimants need to know? The relevant statute of limitations is Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 260 Section 2A, which sets a three year deadline on the filing of any lawsuit seeking a legal remedy for physical injury.

That means if you were hurt in a car accident, in a slip and fall, by someone else's dog, or in almost any other situation where someone else's carelessness played a role in injuring you, you have three years to get your lawsuit filed, and the “clock” starts running on the date of the underlying incident. (Learn more about How and When to File a Personal Injury Lawsuit.)

If you don't get your Massachusetts personal injury lawsuit started before the three-year window closes, it is a near-certainty that the person you are trying to sue will ask the court to dismiss your lawsuit, and the court will almost surely grant the request. Once that happens, you'll be left without a legal remedy for your injuries and other losses.

Are There Exceptions to the Massachusetts Statute?

it's important to note that the filing deadline is not absolute. There are some rare instances where the running of the statute of limitations “clock” can be paused or “tolled” in Massachusetts, meaning that the filing deadline is extended beyond three years. For example:

  • where the person being sued has fraudulently concealed his or her liability, or
  • where the person who is bringing the lawsuit -- or on whose behalf the lawsuit is being filed -- was a minor or was “incapacitated by mental illness” at the time of the underlying accident.

These are just two illustrations. If you have specific questions about extending the filing deadline in Massachusetts, an experienced personal injury attorney will have the answers.

Even if you doubt that you're going to file a personal injury lawsuit over your accident -- maybe you're already in serious settlement talks with the at-fault party's insurance company -- it's still important to keep the statute of limitations deadline in mind. If you don't get the insurance claim process started right away, or if the other side is dragging its heels, three years can pass by pretty quickly. You always want to make sure you have the option of taking your case to court. Lose that option, and you lose your negotiating leverage. (Learn more about The Role of Insurance in Settling an Injury Claim.)

For more personalized information on the Massachusetts personal injury statute of limitations and how it applies to your situation, contact an experienced Massachusetts personal injury attorney. Especially if the filing deadline is approaching, make sure you keep your legal options open and preserve your right to compensation.

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