Were you recently injured in a car accident or a slip and fall? If you are thinking about filing a personal injury lawsuit, you need to know how the statute of limitations could impact your claim. The statute of limitations can, in some cases, prevent an injury victim from bringing a lawsuit entirely. As such, it is extremely important to begin working with a Hawaii personal injury attorney as soon as possible on your case. In the meantime, we want to tell you more about the statute of limitations for personal injury cases in Hawaii. The following are three important things you should know.
The Statute of Limitations for Most Personal Injury Claims is Two Years
Under Hawaii law, most personal injury lawsuits must be brought within two years from the date of the injury. For example, if you got hurt in a car accident in Maui, you would need to bring your lawsuit within two years from the date of the motor vehicle collision in which you were injured. Similarly, if you got hurt in a slip and fall accident at a Hawaii hotel or in a restaurant in Honolulu, you would need to file your lawsuit within two years from the date on which you slipped and fell.
The “Clock” on the Statute of Limitations Varies Depending Upon the Type of Case
While most personal injury lawsuits must be brought within two years, there are some exceptions. Those exceptions largely depend upon the type of personal injury lawsuit you have. The most common example are car accidents in Hawaii where personal injury protection (PIP) benefits are allowed. Each PIP payment extends the statute of limitations. Another example is a patient who is injured as a result of medical malpractice may have more than two years from the date of the injury to file a claim. In other words, the “clock” on the statute of limitations might start “ticking” after the date on which the patient sustained the injury.
Why would a medical malpractice statute of limitations differ from other types of personal injury cases? In medical negligence cases, the patient might not immediately know that he or she has been injured. For example, if a surgeon leaves a sponge inside a patient, it might take weeks or months for the sponge to produce signs or symptoms. At some point, more than two years might have passed since the sponge was left inside the plaintiff. Accordingly, Hawaii law requires a medical malpractice plaintiff to file a claim within two years from the date that she knew or should have known about the injury. To be clear, the “clock” on the statute of limitations does not start “ticking” until the date that the plaintiff found out—or should have known—about the injury. All medical malpractice claims must then be filed within six years from the date of the injury.
If the Statute of Limitations Runs Out, Your Claim can Become Time-Barred
If a plaintiff fails to file a lawsuit before the “clock” on the statute of limitations runs out, that plaintiff’s claim can become time-barred. Once a claim is time-barred, the injured person is prevented from filing a personal injury lawsuit to seek compensation.