The statute of limitations for a car accident in Wisconsin gives you three years from the date of the accident to file a personal injury lawsuit seeking compensation for your medical bills and other accident-related damages. If you miss this deadline, you cannot pursue compensation through the court system.
Some exceptions to this timeline can shorten or lengthen the time you have to file a lawsuit. It takes time to build a strong case, and as time goes by, evidence to support your claim can fade. So consult a Wisconsin car accident lawyer as soon as possible after your accident to protect your rights and meet all important filing deadlines.
What is a Statute of Limitations?
A statute of limitations is a legal rule that sets a specific time limit within which a plaintiff must file a lawsuit. Once the time period specified by the statute of limitations expires, the right to bring a lawsuit or take legal action is generally lost.
Each state has its own statute of limitations for personal injury claims, which can vary from one to six years. Statutes of limitations can also vary depending on the type of legal action, such as cases involving personal injury, criminal, fraud, and so on.
What Are the Exceptions to Wisconsin’s Statute of Limitations for Car Accidents?
Wisconsin's statute of limitations for car accident claims is typically three years. However, certain exceptions and nuances to this general rule may extend or shorten the time frame to bring a claim. Exceptions to Wisconsin's three-year statute of limitations for car accident claims include:
Discovery of Injuries
In some cases, the statute of limitations might begin to run from the date when you discover or should have discovered the injury. This is called the "discovery rule." If you didn't immediately realize the full extent of your injuries, the three-year period might not start until you discover or reasonably should have discovered the injuries.
If the injured party is a minor at the time of the accident, the statute of limitations may toll (pause) until they reach the age of majority, which is 18 in Wisconsin. So, the statute of limitations for minors may extend until their 20th birthday.
Temporary Disability or Injury
If the accident leaves the injured party temporarily disabled, such as in a coma due to a traumatic brain injury, the victim has two years from when their condition resolves to file a claim.
A mentally incapacitated or legally incompetent injured party has up to five years to bring a claim for their accident-related injuries.
When a government employee or volunteer is in an accident, you must follow specific notice requirements and bring your claim within 120 days of the accident. The state will determine whether to pay your claim. Only if the state denies your claim can you file a lawsuit against the State of Wisconsin or its political subdivisions.
Wrongful Death Claims
If a car accident results in a fatality, your car accident case may become a wrongful death claim. Certain surviving family members may recover damages for their loved one’s wrongful death.
For deaths that involved motor vehicle accidents, the statute of limitations in Wisconsin shortens to two years from the date of the victim’s death. (For wrongful deaths caused by negligence or wrongful acts that do not include a motor vehicle accident, the statute of limitations is three years.)
Why Are Statutes of Limitations in Car Accident Cases Necessary?
Statutes of limitations in car accident cases, as well as in other legal matters, serve several important purposes:
Promote Fairness and Finality
Statutes of limitations ensure that plaintiffs bring claims within a reasonable time frame after an incident. This promotes fairness by preventing parties from having to defend against claims based on events that occurred many years ago. It also helps achieve finality, allowing individuals and businesses to move on from past incidents with the assurance that they won't face legal liability indefinitely.
Protect the Integrity of Evidence
Over time, evidence can deteriorate or become lost, memories can fade, and witnesses may become harder to locate or may pass away. By requiring plaintiffs to file claim within a set time period, statutes of limitations preserve the integrity of evidence and ensure that cases resolve based on the most reliable information available.
Encourage Timely Resolution
Statutes of limitations encourage individuals to pursue their legal claims in a timely manner. When people have a set time limit to bring a lawsuit, they may take action promptly, which can help achieve quicker and more efficient resolutions of disputes.
Protect Defendants from Stale Claims
Defendants in legal cases deserve protection against having to defend themselves against claims based on outdated or unreliable evidence.
Statutes of limitations provide clarity and legal certainty, both for potential plaintiffs and defendants. It allows individuals and businesses to plan for the future without the looming threat of indefinite legal liability.
Setting time limits for filing claims helps prevent courts from becoming overwhelmed with old cases. This promotes the efficient operation of the judicial system and allows courts to focus on more recent and pressing matters.
Statutes of limitations provide a consistent framework for resolving claims across different areas of law. They establish uniform time limits that apply to a wide range of legal actions, from personal injury cases to contract disputes, ensuring that courts treat similar claims consistently.
Injured in a Car Accident? Don’t Let Wisconsin’s Statute of Limitations Pass You By.
With a three-year time limit to file a lawsuit, Wisconsin's statute of limitations requires you to act promptly to protect your legal rights.
Don't delay in seeking legal counsel to navigate the complexities of your case. By doing so, your lawyer can uphold your rights, preserve evidence, and keep the path to a fair resolution open.
Time is of the essence, and early consultation with an experienced attorney can make all the difference in your car accident claim. Contact a Wisconsin car accident lawyer at Nicolet Law Accident & Injury Lawyers today at 1-855-NICOLET or through our online form for your free and confidential case consultation.