The Rhode Island personal injury statute of limitations imposes deadlines for filing lawsuits for injuries caused by the wrongful acts, negligence, or default of others. Contacting a personal injury attorney as soon as possible after your accident will allow time to build a strong case and file your lawsuit before the deadline.
Like other states, Rhode Island limits the amount of time a personal injury victim has to file a civil lawsuit. This time frame varies based on the details of the incident that led to the injury.
The purpose of a statute of limitations is to relieve insurance companies, businesses, and individuals of the possibility of being sued for incidents that occurred in the distant past. It also ensures that victims file cases within a reasonable time frame while evidence is still viable.
What Is The Personal Injury Statute Of Limitations In Rhode Island?
The Rhode Island statute of limitations for most personal injury cases is three years from the date a cause of action first accrues. However, determining this date is not always straightforward, and the time limit for your specific case may be different. A Rhode Island personal injury lawyer can determine how the statute of limitations applies to your case.
Product liability law holds manufacturers, distributors, and retailers liable for injuries resulting from defective products. The Rhode Island product liability statute of limitations is 10 years from the date the product was purchased, regardless of when the injury occurred.
For example, if you are injured by a defective product five years after the purchase date, you have five years to file a lawsuit. If you are injured nine years after the purchase date, you have just one year to file suit. If you are injured more than 10 years after the purchase date, the statute of limitations bars you from filing a claim. However, it is important to contact a Rhode Island lawyer to determine how the statute of limitations applies to your case.
Motor Vehicle Accidents
The statute of limitations for most injuries that occur in automobile accidents is three years from the date of the accident. This includes the following:
Motor vehicle accidents often have multiple contributing causes. Rhode Island § 9-1-23 allows just one of the statutes of limitations to apply to the entire case. For example, your accident may have been caused by a combination of the other driver’s negligence and a defective vehicle component.
Under Rhode Island’s product liability laws, the statute of limitations would be 10 years from the date the defective vehicle was purchased new, and the statute of limitations for the injuries caused by the other driver’s negligence would be three years from the date of your accident.
Determining the correct application of the statute of limitations in these cases can be complex. The only safe method to determine the correct deadline is to talk to an experienced Rhode Island personal injury lawyer.
Medical malpractice occurs when a health care provider causes an injury by failing to provide a reasonable standard of care. The statute of limitations to file a claim in these cases is three years from the date of the injury.
If the injury is not apparent on the date the incident occurred, the statute of limitations commences on the date the injury was discovered or should reasonably have been discovered. This is known as the discovery rule. Due to the complexity of medical malpractice cases, it is critical to contact a Rhode Island Medical Negligence attorney to determine how the statute of limitations applies to your medical malpractice case.
If the injured person is a minor and the parent or guardian fails to file a claim before the statute of limitations expires, the injured person may file a claim after reaching the age of majority (18) until they reach the age of 21.
The statute of limitations in most wrongful death cases is three years from the date of the death.
If the cause of the injury leading to death was not immediately apparent at the time of death, the statute of limitations commences on the date the cause of injury is discovered or should have been discovered by reasonable diligence.
If a death is caused by a defective product, the statute of limitations is generally 10 years from the date the product was purchased.
If someone with a cause of action dies before the statute of limitations has expired or within 60 days after its expiration, the administrator of the deceased may file a lawsuit within one year after the appointment of the administrator or executor, but not more than three years after the death of the victim.
Rhode Island Deadlines For Injury Claims
In addition to lawsuits, some injuries require filing claims outside the court system prior to filing civil actions through the court. Many of these claims also have deadlines.
Rhode Island § 27-18-3 requires insurers to allow claimants at least three years to file an accident claim. The insurance claim filing process involves reporting the accident to the claims department at your insurance company to request compensation, or benefits, without involving the court system.
It is important to note that an insurance accident claim is not the same thing as a lawsuit. It is generally necessary to file an insurance claim before you file a lawsuit.
If the insurance company approves your claim to fair benefits, a lawsuit will generally not be necessary. If the insurance carrier denies your claim, the next step is to file a civil lawsuit.
It is important to note that the clock on the statute of limitations continues to tick after you file an insurance claim. You still must file your civil lawsuit before the statute of limitations expires, regardless of when you filed your insurance claim or whether it is still pending.
It is not uncommon for insurance companies to stall as a way to get you to miss the civil statute of limitations. Early involvement by an experienced personal injury attorney can thwart these tactics and ensure that your case moves forward within a reasonable timeframe — certainly before the statute of limitations expires.
Claims Against Public Entities
The statute of limitations for claims against government entities, including the state, a municipality, or an agency, is generally three years from the date of injury. However, if your claim is against a city or town for injuries incurred on a highway, bridge, or causeway, you must file a 60-day notice of your intent to file a lawsuit. This gives the municipality an opportunity to offer you a settlement.
What Happens If I Miss The Deadline For The Statute Of Limitations?
Allowing the statute of limitations to expire results in a permanent bar against filing a claim for damages. If you file a claim after the statute of limitations has expired, the court will dismiss your lawsuit. In rare cases, you may successfully request that the statute of limitations be extended.
This may be allowed in limited circumstances already defined in the law, such as when the discovery rule or another statutory exception applies.
Exceptions To The Rhode Island Statute Of Limitations
When the statute of limitations is temporarily paused, this is known as tolling. State law specifies several circumstances under which the statute of limitations may be tolled.
When a lawsuit is filed, it cannot move forward until the defendant has been served and given an opportunity to respond. If the defendant has relocated to another state without an in-state agent who can receive service of a lawsuit on their behalf, the case is tolled until the defendant moves back to Rhode Island.
If a disability prevents a plaintiff from legally filing a lawsuit, the statute of limitations is tolled until such a disability is removed. State law defines disability for this purpose as any of the following conditions:
- Being a minor
- Mental incompetence
- Location outside the reach of the United States
If a cause of action is not discovered because of the fraudulent misrepresentation of the injurious party, the statute of limitations is tolled until the cause of action is discovered.
Termination Of Claim By Court Order
If a claim is terminated for reasons other than voluntary discontinuance, dismissal for not prosecuting the action, or a final judgment, the statute of limitations is extended by one additional year.
This also applies if the claimant dies after filing a case but before the case is resolved.
Does My Case Qualify For An Exception?
It is not always possible to determine whether your case qualifies for an exception outside of court. These situations are known as exceptions because they are rarely allowed.
The safest assumption is that the statute of limitations, as defined in the Rhode Island code, will apply to your case unless you lack the legal capacity to file.
How The Discovery Rule Affects Rhode Island Injury Cases
The discovery rule is often vigorously contested by the opposing party because it extends the statute of limitations when it may have otherwise expired.
If a defendant can convince a judge that the discovery rule should not apply or that by reasonable diligence you should have discovered the injury sooner, the statute of limitations may be applied according to a date prior to your discovery of the injury.
As a precaution, if you have recently experienced an injury because of negligence in any form, any emerging medical symptoms should be investigated by a competent health care provider as soon as possible.
It is also a good idea to contact a personal injury attorney if you suspect someone else’s negligence is to blame.
Does The Statute Of Limitations Continue To Run After Filing A Lawsuit?
The statute of limitations governs the length of time you have to initiate proceedings. Your case is initiated when you file a civil lawsuit in the appropriate jurisdiction. Once the case is filed, you can negotiate a settlement or receive a judgment at any time afterward, even if the statute of limitations expires.
However, if your case is dismissed and you have to refile your case, the statute of limitations will remain in force from the date of injury or discovery, and you will need to refile before its expiration.
After you file your case, the defendant must be served within 120 days of filing. If the defendant is not served within this time frame, the court may dismiss your case without prejudice, which means you can file again.
However, the court does have discretion to provide relief if the statute of limitations would bar refiling or the defendant is evading service.
The Rhode Island Personal Injury Lawyers At Marasco & Nesselbush Can File Your Lawsuit On Time
If you have been injured because of someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation. However, you can lose this right if you do not file your lawsuit before the statute of limitations expires.
Before a personal injury attorney from Marasco & Nesselbush can file your lawsuit, they will need ample time to complete the following:
- An investigation of the incident, such as an accident reconstruction
- Retrieval and review of your medical records
- Interviews with eyewitnesses
- Consultations with expert witnesses, financial planners, and consultants
These tasks can take significant time to complete, but they are necessary to build the strongest case possible and refute the claims of the liable parties who hope to avoid paying compensation.
Our highly skilled team of Rhode Island personal injury attorneys has the resources to accomplish these tasks well ahead of the statutory deadlines.
We will leverage our negotiation and litigation skills to win you nothing less than the highest level of compensation available. We prioritize filing your case well ahead of the statute of limitations.
Don’t wait for the statute of limitations to run out. Contact Marasco & Nesselbush today for a free consultation.