If you have been injured in an accident that was caused by someone else’s careless or reckless actions, Rhode Island allows you to recover injury-related expenses and impacts to your life through a personal injury lawsuit. However, you do not have an indefinite time in which to begin such a proceeding due to the state’s personal injury statute of limitations. State lawmakers set their statute of limitations in civil cases for a couple of different reasons, such as:
- Preventing individuals from living under the indefinite threat of a lawsuit.
- Ensuring that the evidence needed to prove the case is still fresh and available.
Different time limits are set for different types of cases. For example, the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury claim is different than the time limit you have for filing a lawsuit involving property damage only, or filing a lawsuit for another type of civil matter, such as slander or fraud.
The Personal Injury Statute of Limitations in Rhode Island
In Rhode Island, generally, claimants have three years to file a personal injury lawsuit. What this means is that the initial paperwork required to commence the lawsuit must be submitted to the civil court within the proper jurisdiction and fees associated with that filing must be paid within three years after the accident which caused your injury. While this statutory time limit applies to most cases, there are some exceptions, such as:
- The defendant in the case cannot be found in order to be served legal paperwork pertaining to the lawsuit. In Rhode Island, when you attempt to have the defendant served with the lawsuit through either a sheriff’s deputy or another individual who handles process service and they are unable to locate the defendant, this is called non est inventus. If this happens in a personal injury case, then the state extends the statute of limitations 120 days after the expiration in order to allow the claimant to serve the paperwork directly to the defendant’s insurer instead. The caveat is that the case must otherwise be properly filed with the court in order for this exemption to apply.
- Cases involving a personal injury lawsuit against the state government. While the statute of limitations remains three years, the process of recovering compensation in a case involving the government is different. The three-year time limit applies to a notice that must be filed with the state’s Attorney General, rather than a lawsuit filed in civil court.
Do Not Delay Work on Your Case
While you have three years in Rhode Island to file your personal injury lawsuit, you are strongly encouraged to hire an attorney to begin working on your case well in advance of that time limit. Failing to meet the time limit will result in your case being time-barred, which means it will be dismissed and you will no longer be eligible to pursue compensation for your injuries. This is actually one of the most common reasons for personal injury cases to be dismissed.
Hiring an attorney as soon as possible after you have become injured ensures that your attorney has time to:
- Properly investigate your case. Waiting until the statute of limitations is about to expire places your attorney at a disadvantage when it comes to the ability to build the best case possible in order to obtain the right amount of compensation for the injuries you have suffered. This involves intense scrutiny of the details of your case, a proper valuation based on the economic and non-economic impacts you have incurred, and the ability to prove liability and expenses.
- Determine all sources of liability and all potential insurance resources that can be accessed in order to compensate you. Waiting until the last minute to file your lawsuit increases the risk that a liable party will not be named in the suit, and could reduce the amount of compensation you are able to recover as the money for your settlement or award is generally paid out through the insurance policies that the at-fault party has.
- Gather the evidence needed to prove your case. In many personal injury cases, the evidence includes personal records from the at-fault party’s employer and other resources. Waiting to hire an attorney increases the risk that the evidence you need is lost or unavailable for your attorney to use. The viability of witness testimony also degrades with the passing of time as details are forgotten or that the witness will be impossible to locate or may even pass away before providing the information your attorney needs to build your case.
- Negotiate a settlement. Most personal injury cases are not decided in court, but rather through a settlement. This is actually a preferable solution to many clients as it avoids the expense and emotional distress that the courtroom experience often brings. Waiting until the statute of limitations is drawing near to file your lawsuit means your attorney has less time to negotiate and increases the likelihood that litigation will be your only option for obtaining compensation for your injury-related expenses and impacts.
Do not leave your ability to recover damages in your case to chance.
Hire an experienced personal injury lawyer to help ensure that the statute of limitations is met and protect your right to be compensated for your injury.