In Minnesota, if you are considering making a personal injury claim, it’s crucial to understand the statute of limitations and how it applies to your potential lawsuit. For those not fluent in "legalese," a "statute of limitations” is just a law that puts a strict time limit on your right to file a lawsuit in the state's civil court system. There are usually different deadlines depending on the kind of case you want to file.
The relevant statute of limitations for Minnesota personal injury plaintiffs can be found at Minnesota Statutes section 541.07, which requires that an action “for libel, slander, assault, battery, false imprisonment, or other tort resulting in personal injury” be commenced within two years. So, whether it’s a car accident, slip and fall, or any other kind of mishap, if someone else's carelessness or intentional action played a role in injuring you, you have two years to get any civil lawsuit filed against that person, and the “clock” starts running on the date of the underlying incident. (Learn more about How and When to File a Personal Injury Lawsuit.)
Even if you don’t think you’re going to file a personal injury lawsuit -- maybe you’re well into the insurance settlement process -- it's still important to keep the statute of limitations in mind. 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 during injury settlement talks. (Learn more about The Role of Insurance in Settling an Injury Claim.)
What happens if you don't get your personal injury lawsuit started before Minnesota’s two-year window closes? In that situation, you can bet that the person you are trying to sue will ask the court to dismiss your lawsuit, and unless some exception applies to extend the deadline (more on these below) the court will grant the request. If that happens, you’re left with no way to hold the other party responsible for your injuries and other losses.
Exceptions to the Running of the Statute of Limitations “Clock” in Minnesota
There are some rare instances where the running of the two-year “clock” can be paused or “tolled” in Minnesota, meaning that the filing deadline is extended.
One of the most common of these exceptions can be found at Minnesota Statutes section 541.15. In the context of a personal injury lawsuit, this law says that if, at the time the injury occurred or at any point during the ensuing two-year period, the prospective plaintiff was under 18 years of age, or was legally insane, then the running of the period of limitation will be suspended. But the law also makes clear that the deadline won’t be extended for more than five years in the case of a legally insane plaintiff, and once the person reaches 18 or is declared sane, the deadline won’t be extended for more than one year.
Also, under Minnesota Statutes section 541.13, the defendant’s absence from the state of Minnesota may suspend the running of the statute of limitations period, especially where the person cannot be served with the lawsuit documentation as required by law.
Those are just a few examples, and they can be tricky to parse out. If you have specific questions about extending the statute of limitations deadline, or about the lawsuit process in general, a knowledgeable Minnesota personal injury attorney will have the answers.