If you are considering making a personal injury claim against an individual or entity responsible for causing you harm in Louisiana, it is very important to understand and abide by the statute of limitations as it applies to your potential lawsuit. Taking a step back, 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. Every state has these laws on the books, with different deadlines depending on the kind of case you want to file.
For most Louisiana personal injury plaintiffs, the statute of limitations that will apply to their case is Louisiana Civil Code Article 3492, which says: “Delictual actions are subject to a liberative prescription of one year. This prescription commences to run from the day injury or damage is sustained.”
Let's cut through the “legalese:” A “delictual” action is simply a lawsuit over some kind of harm. So, Article 3492 is saying that if someone else's carelessness or intentional action played a role in injuring you -- whether through a car accident, a dog bite, a slip and fall, or some other mishap -- you must get any lawsuit filed against that person within one year, and the clock starts running on the date of the injury. (Learn more about How and When to File a Personal Injury Lawsuit.)
At this point, you're probably wondering what happens if you don't get your personal injury lawsuit started before Louisiana's one-year deadline passes. In that scenario, it's a safe 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 Louisiana
In Louisiana, there are some rare situations where the statute of limitations “clock” can be paused or “tolled,” so that the filing deadline is extended for a certain period of time.
One of the most common of these exceptions is stated right in Article 3492, where it says that the prescription period “does not run against minors,” meaning a person who was under the age of 18 at the time of the underlying injury. The implication here is that the one-year “clock” starts on the day the injured person turns 18, but it's important to speak with an attorney to understand exactly how “tolling” applies to any given situation.
Also, in cases where the potential plaintiff was injured by a defective product in Louisiana, but did not know about the true nature or cause of the injury right away, the statute of limitations “clock” may not begin to run until that information becomes “reasonably discoverable.”
If you have specific questions about extending the statute of limitations deadline, or about the lawsuit process in general, speak to a knowledgeable Louisiana personal injury lawyer.
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. One year can pass very quickly when you're trying to settle an injury case. 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.)