Statutes of Limitation for Accident-Injury and Wrongful Death Claims
(Be sure to check with your attorney for accurate and up to date information regarding Statutes of Limitation which may include both statutory and caselaw interpretation.)
If a lawsuit is not filed and your claim is not settled within this time period from the date of accident or other time as prescribed by statute (often when "the cause of action accrues"), then there is no further right to bring legal action to recover monetary damages. Most often "the cause of action accrues" on the date of the accident or injury. However, Courts have held in cases where the claimant didn't initially appreciate that the tortfeasor negligently caused the injury that "the cause of action accrues" when the claimant "reasonably discovers" that the tortfeasor committed negligence causing injury to the claimant.
The law regarding Statutes of Limitation is somewhat complex and may change from time to time. Accordingly, you should promptly retain an attorney to fully and properly advise you regarding the Statutes of Limitation issues in your case and to ensure that your case is settled or a lawsuit filed within the proper time limitation. You may look up the Statutes of Limitations online at http://www.azleg.state.az.us/ArizonaRevisedStatutes.asp?Title=12 at Arizona Revised Statutes, Title 12, Chapter 5, ARS 501 556
If Injured Person a Minor: The limitations period starts to run when the minor becomes eighteen years of age. ARS 12-502. Both the minor and parents are entitled to recover pre-majority medical expenses, but double recovery isn’t permitted. Estate of Desela v. Prescott Unified School District No. 1 et al(Arizona Supreme Court, No. CV-10-0172-PR, 1-18-2011),
If Injured Person of "Unsound Mind": If the injured person is of "unsound mind" or "under eighteen years of age", then the period of such disability shall not be counted as part of the time limited (the Statute of Limitations period). ARS 12-502. However, tacking of disabilities is prohibited. The period of limitation shall not be extended by the connection of one disability with another. When the law of limitation begins to run it shall continue to run notwithstanding a supervening disability of the party entitled to sue or liable to be sued. ARS 12-503.
If Defendant Outside the State: If you can prove that a defendant is outside the state during the applicable limitations period, then the action may be brought after the defendant returns to the state, and the time of defendant's absence from the state shall not be counted as part of the time limited (the Statute of Limitations period). ARS 12-501.
Types of Legal Injury Actions/Statute of Limitations:
Personal Injury, Medical Malpractice, Wrongful Death:
The limitations period for injury to person, injury when death ensues, or medical malpractice, for claims against the tortfeasor, is that the lawsuit "shall be commenced and prosecuted within two years after the cause of action accrues." Generally, for injury to person, the cause of action "accrues" on the date of accident, when one is injured. The statute states that an injury when death ensues "accrues" on the date of death. ARS 12-542.
Arizona Public or Governmental Entity or Employee:
In the case of lawsuits, including based on negligence causing injury, against the State of Arizona or any political subdivision thereof, including school districts, cities, state agencies and departments, etc. and their employees: You are required to file a “Notice of Claim” within 180 days and to file a lawsuit within one year after “the cause of action accrues”. A minor or an insane or incompetent person may file a claim within 180 days after the disability ceases and file a lawsuit within one year after “the cause of action accrues”. ARS 12-821 & 12-821.01. Certain Fire Department Paramedics, Ambulance companies and medical facilities/hospitals may qualify as an Arizona public or governmental entity for the purpose of these statutes.
Liability Created by Statute Including Dog Bite:
The limitations period is one year after the cause of action accrues for a liability created by statute, other than penalty or forfeiture. ARS 12-541. For example, the owner or person(s) responsible for a dog are fully responsible for injury to any person or damage to any property. ARS 11-1020. The dog owner which bites a person who is in or on a public place or lawfully in a private place, including the property of the dog owner, is liable for injury to the person bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner's knowledge of this. Subject to some law enforcement exceptions. An injured person is lawfully in or on the private property of the dog owner when an invitee or guest or when in performance of a duty imposed by law. Proof of provocation, determined by a reasonable person standard, of the attack by the injured person is a defense to an action for damages. ARS 11-1025 1027.
Uninsured Motorist Claims:
Keep in mind that Uninsured policy provisions may require their own Statute of Limitations, so check your own auto insurance Uninsured Motorist policy provisions and comply whenever possible, as its possible that the Courts may enforce the contractual Statute of Limitations for this. Effective for date of accident 9-21-06 and thereafter: You must give written notice to the insurance carrier of your intent to pursue the claim within 3 years after the date of accident, except that you may give this notice within 3 years of the earliest of the following: The date you knew the tortfeasor was uninsured; the date you knew or should have known that the tortfeasor's insurer denied coverage; or the date you knew or should have known of the insolvency of the tortfeasor's insurer. You are required to request arbitration or file suit, pursuant to your auto insurance policy terms, within 3 years of providing the above written notice of uninsured motorist claim or the insurer is not liable to pay uninsured motorist benefits to you. ARS 12-555. [For date of accident 9-20-06 or before, ARS 12-555 requires that you give written notice of your intent to pursue the claim within 3 years after you knew or should have known that the tortfeasor was uninsured; and the Statute of Limitations is also 6 years from the time that your insurance carrier breaches the insurance contract, per Blutreich v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 170 Ariz. 541, 826 P.2d 1167 (App. 1991).].
Underinsured Motorist Claims:
Keep in mind that Underinsured policy provisions may require their own Statute of Limitations, so check your own auto insurance Underinsured Motorist policy provisions and comply whenever possible, as its possible that the Courts may enforce the contractual Statute of Limitations for this. Effective for date of accident 9-21-06 and thereafter: You must give written notice to the insurance carrier of your intent to pursue the claim within 3 years after the date of accident AND you have made a claim with the tortfeasor's insurer or filed an action against the tortfeasor within the time limits prescribed by ARS 12-542 or the time limit prescribed by the law of the location where the accident occurred, except that you may make an underinsured motorist claim within 3 years after the date that you know or should have known that the tortfeasor has insufficient liability insurance to cover your injuries. You are required to request arbitration or file suit, pursuant to your auto insurance policy terms, within 3 years of providing the above written notice of underinsured motorist claim or the insurer is not liable to pay underinsured motorist benefits to you. ARS 12-555. [For date of accident 9-20-06 or before, ARS 12-555 requires that you give written notice of your intent to pursue the claim within 3 years after you knew or should have known that the tortfeasor was underinsured; and the Statute of Limitations is likely 6 years from the time that your insurance carrier breaches the insurance contract, by analogy to the uninsured motorist claim litigated in Blutreich v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 170 Ariz. 541, 826 P.2d 1167 (App. 1991).].
Civil Action Arising from Criminal Conduct:
If the defendant is charged by a criminal complaint or indictment, then regardless of whether the defendant is convicted of criminal conduct against the victim, the limitations period for any cause of action brought by the victim against the defendant for criminal conduct is extended for one year from the final disposition of the criminal proceedings. This only applies against the defendant and defendant's personal assets. However, insurers have no duty to defend or indemnify under this statute, unless the action is filed within the otherwise applicable limitations period. Also, this statute doesn't apply to employers or former employers. ARS 12-511.
Workman's Compensation Claims:
Arizona Workman's Compensation law requires that Workman's Compensation claims be filed by the injured claimant with the Arizona Industrial Commision within one year from date of accident; that one year post-accident your personal injury claim against defendants is assigned to the Workman's Compensation insurance carrier; that the carrier may reassign that right to you and your attorney thereafter; and that the limitations period for the lawsuit to be filed against the responsible defendants is 2 years from date of accident. It is best to file a lawsuit prior to one year from date of accident, to avoid the potential that the Workman's Compensatoin carrier might include provisions in the Reassignment which limit who you can sue.
A product liability action as defined in section 12-681 shall be commenced and prosecuted within the period prescribed in ARS 12-542, except that no product liability action may be commenced and prosecuted if the cause of action accrues more than twelve years after the product was first sold for use or consumption, unless the cause of action is based upon the negligence of the manufacturer or seller or a breach of an express warranty provided by the manufacturer or seller. ARS 12-551. Check with an attorney with expertise and experience in handling product liability claims regarding whether the statutory twelve year requirement may be unconstitutional.