Tennessee Personal Injury Statute of Limitations
Every state, including Tennessee, has a statute of limitations or law that sets a time restriction for accident and other personal injury victims to take legal action. Settlement negotiations can sometimes take months, but if your efforts to obtain a fair settlement fail, the statute of limitations prevents you from filing a lawsuit after a specific amount of time.
The Tennessee personal injury attorneys at NST Law can help you understand the relevant statutes of limitations as they apply directly to your case. We have three offices throughout Tennessee, located in Memphis, Knoxville, and Jackson. If you suffered a personal injury due to someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing, we can help evaluate your case and ensure you adhere to the deadline for filing a lawsuit so that you can receive fair compensation.
What is the personal injury statute of limitations in Tennessee?
Different statutes of limitations apply depending on your specific personal injury case. Relevant personal injury statutes of limitations in Tennessee include:
- One Year
Car accidents, libel, premises liability, medical malpractice, workers’ compensation, and wrongful death cases have a one-year statute of limitations in Tennessee per Tenn. Code § 28-3-104. However, if the state brings criminal charges against the defendant for the same incident that led to your injuries (e.g., drunk driving), you could have up to two years to file a complaint.
- Three Years
Should a defendant’s actions cause injury to personal or real property, you have up to three years to take legal action per Tenn. Code § 28-3-105. You also have three years to bring legal action if someone caused you injury by violating a state or federal statute (if that injury caused you monetary liability), and the law doesn’t otherwise provide for a time limitation.
- Six Years
If you suffered injuries due to a defective or unreasonably dangerous product, you have up to six years to file a personal injury lawsuit against the manufacturer under Tenn. Code § 29-28-103. However, you must take legal action within 10 years of purchasing the product or within one year of the anticipated life expiration of the product, whichever is shorter. If a minor child suffers injuries after using a faulty product, that child has until one year after they reach the age of 18 to initiate a lawsuit against the manufacturer.
Exceptions to the Tennessee Statutes of Limitations
In some cases, the statute of limitations tolls, meaning the “time clock” pauses until the plaintiff can fulfill certain conditions. This suspension of time essentially prolongs the period to file a lawsuit. These situations include:
- Minors and Mental Impairment
In the case of a minor child, the statute of limitations tolls until the child reaches the age of majority, and then they are granted one year to file a case. Additionally, if an injured person is deemed incompetent, the time to file pauses until the person receives a competent status or when the court restores their legal rights or assigns a legal guardian to handle their affairs. After that time, they’ll have three years to file as per Tenn. Code § 28-1-106.
- Medical Malpractice
If a medical professional acted negligently or failed to follow the required standard of care, causing your injuries or the death of a loved one, you have one year to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against the doctor and the hospital where you received treatment per Tenn. Code § 29–26-116
Alternatively, you have one year from the date of discovery or the date you should have reasonably discovered the injury to initiate a lawsuit if your injury was not immediately apparent. However, you have no more than three years from the original event to determine a medical professional’s negligence resulting in your injury under this rule (unless there is fraudulent concealment on the part of the defendant).
For example, if during the birth of your child, your doctor performs certain acts or fails to act per the standard of care, causing your baby neurological harm that leads to the development of cerebral palsy, you might not learn about your child’s affliction until months after their first birthday. At that time, the statute of limitations will have already expired. Still, because you learned that the doctor’s negligence caused your child’s diagnosis more than 12 months later, you still have an additional year from the date of discovery to bring legal action.
Lastly, should you find that a surgeon or other medical professional left a foreign object in your body during surgery, you have one year after you discover the object to initiate a lawsuit against the negligent health care provider or medical facility where your operation occurred.
- Wrongful Death
If someone’s negligence or wrongdoing results in the loss of your family member, you have one year from the date of their death to file a wrongful death lawsuit. You could have an extra 120 days to file your case in rare situations. The statute of limitations starts running at the date of death rather than the date of the accident or incident when they sustained the fatal injuries.
If an injured person has already filed a lawsuit but dies due to their injuries, under Tenn. Code § 20-5-106, a spouse, adult child, or parent can file a wrongful death action. If the decedent doesn’t have any immediate relatives eligible to file the action, the decedent’s personal representative can initiate the wrongful death lawsuit.
Never depend on exceptions to the statutes of limitations set by Tennessee law. Instead, speak with a personal injury attorney who can research your case and any applicable exceptions. The lawyers at NST Law can properly advise you on how to protect your rights and ability to recover fair compensation for your injuries.
What happens if I miss the personal injury statute of limitations in Tennessee?
If the Tennessee statute of limitations runs, meaning you miss your chance to file your lawsuit in time, the defendant will likely file a motion to dismiss, and the courts will probably grant the request. The law clearly states that when the statute of limitations runs, you are forever time-barred from recovering compensation for your injuries and other losses.
Tennessee has repeatedly upheld the statute of limitations as shown in the following cases:
Julia Putman, et al. v. John W. Leach Administrator Ad Litem of the Estate of Bryane R. Litsinberger: The plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against Litsinberger. However, unknown to the plaintiffs, the defendant died because of injuries sustained in the accident. Learning of this months later, the plaintiffs subsequently requested an administrator ad litem, which the court granted. The plaintiffs then changed the lawsuit to name the administrator. However, these actions took place after the statute of limitations ran. Consequently, the court granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss, and the appellate court affirmed.
Richard Moreno v. City of Clarksville: The court dismissed the case because the plaintiff didn’t file the original complaint before the statute of limitations expired. The court did not consider the notice, filed prior to the running of the statute, an original complaint.
The personal injury attorneys at NST Law can ensure that you do not miss the statute of limitations relevant to your case and thereby miss out on your opportunity to receive fair compensation.
What is the discovery rule in Tennessee injury claims?
The State of Tennessee grants a “discovery rule” governed by Tenn. Code § 29-26-116. This rule applies primarily to health care liability and extends the statute of limitations when the plaintiff does not immediately discover or could not have reasonably discovered their injury until a later date.
While this is an exception to the deadline, it’s still important to work quickly to get your case filed as soon as you discover your injury. You should never rely on this rule or any other exception to Tennessee’s personal injury statutes of limitations. Protect your right to recover compensation after an accident or incident involving another’s negligence by filing in a timely manner.
Why does Tennessee limit the period to file a lawsuit?
Tennessee has statutes of limitations for civil and criminal cases for many reasons. These laws encourage plaintiffs to file their lawsuits as soon as possible, as the preservation of evidence is vital to a fair trial. Over time, evidentiary support can degrade or become challenging to obtain, making it difficult to assert allegations effectively.
Lastly, witnesses are more likely to remember the events of the incident when it’s fresh in their minds. Waiting several years to conduct depositions or have witnesses provide testimony of the events from memory can lead to contradictory or uncertain statements, which can discredit and ultimately harm your case.
The Tennessee Personal Injury Lawyers at NST Law Can File Your Lawsuit Timely
The attorneys at NST Law have extensive experience handling personal injury and wrongful deaths cases. We’ve successfully recovered over $1.5 billion for injured clients. We achieved all our case victories through our unwavering commitment to clients and timely filing of all lawsuits.
We are available to evaluate your case and answer any questions you have about Tennessee’s personal injury statutes of limitations and how they apply directly to your ability to recover compensation. Contact NST Law today for a free consultation.