A statute of limitations is a law that prevents an injured person or a decedent’s estate from filing a claim once a certain period of time passes following an accident or event causing personal injury or wrongful death. In other words, it sets a deadline for filing a lawsuit in court.

How Does a Personal Injury Lawyer Know When to File a Claim?

If the injured person or estate representative chooses to sue, that person needs to file a lawsuit before the deadline set in the statute of limitations. That deadline varies depending on where the claim is brought and what type of claim it is. In Massachusetts, actions for personal injury generally must be brought within three years of the date the injury occurred or in medical malpractice cases, within three years of when the injured person knew or should have discovered the negligence that caused the injury. Massachusetts has a three-year statute of limitations in wrongful death cases.

What Happens if a Deadline – or Statute of Limitations – is Not Met?

If someone files a lawsuit after the deadline, the defendant can ask the court to dismiss the action, stopping the lawsuit from moving forward. If the court finds that the suit was filed after the deadline, it is likely the court will dismiss the lawsuit and the plaintiff may have no further recourse.

Are the Deadlines the Same for a Minor in a Personal Injury Case?

In most Massachusetts personal injury cases, statutes of limitations are tolled, or delayed, for minors. In other words, if a minor has a potential claim for personal injuries, the statute of limitations period does not begin to run until they reach the age of majority, which is 18 years old. While anyone over the age of 18 would be confined to three years from the date of the injury, a minor has three years from the date of their 18th birthday to file the claim in court. However, the tolling rule does not apply to medical malpractice cases involving minors, which must be brought within three years of the date that the parents knew or should have known of the malpractice, unless for a child under the age of six, who has until his or her ninth birthday to bring the claim, subject to the Statute of Repose, discussed below.

What is a Statute of Repose in a Massachusetts Personal Injury Claim?

A statute of repose is a law that terminates the right to bring a claim after a specific period of time, typically a number of years after the triggering event occurs. Statutes of repose are more favorable to defendants since they are absolute. Unlike the statute of limitations, it cannot be tolled, or pushed off, for any reason, even for minors.

In Massachusetts, medical malpractice claims are subject to both statutes of limitations and statutes of repose. Medical malpractice claims are subject to a three-year Statute of Limitations and a seven-year statute of repose.

Statutes of Limitations and Statutes of Repose can be confusing. SUGARMAN’s attorneys have decades of experience navigating these laws to achieve the best outcomes for our clients. To learn more, please contact one of our partners by calling (617) 542-1000 or email us at info@sugarman.com