Alabama Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Claims
As with the other forty-nine states, Alabama law has a statute of limitations for filing a personal injury claim. That is, a certain period of time within which a lawsuit must be filed to preserve the claim. This article addresses the different kinds of claims and the exceptions to them.
Generally speaking, Alabama law has a two year statute of limitations for personal injury suits. For example, if you involved in a truck accident and suffer injuries, you have two years to file suit against the truck driver and trucking company. The same period applies to all types of accidents.
The two year period also applies to fatal accidents and wrongful death lawsuits, which are not technically "personal injury" claims under Alabama law, but are treated the same for practical reasons.
However, they are very important exceptions to the two-year period. First, the period can be "tolled" or extended if the injured party is a minor or incompetent. The purpose here is to protect the victim until they can make their own decision or have a court-appointed guardian decide for them. Second, the two-year period can be tolled if the injury is not yet known, such as in the case where a doctor's error in performing a medical procedure does not manifest itself until after two years from the date of the procedure.
The overwhelming majority of personal injury claims are based in tort theories such as negligence, assault, recklessness, product liability, etc. "Tort" is defined as a civil wrong that justifies an award of monetary compensation. So, Alabama law puts all tort claims in one group for purposes of the statute of limitations.
In those instances where a person is injured and the two year period has already elapsed for a tort claim, a claim for breach of contract might be the only viable option, which has a six year statute of limitations. A contract claim can be brought in those instances where an injury is due to a party's failure to comply with the terms of a contract.
A good example of this occurs on construction sites where general contractors agree with the owner to provide for overall job site safety. When an employee of a subcontractor is injured, and the injury can be traced to a breach of the general contractor's promise to provide for workplace safety, such a claim can be brought as a contract claim, unaffected by the two year limitation.
Regardless of the specific limitation period that applies, it is wise to consult with an Alabama personal injury lawyer about your specific situation in order to avoid a complete forfeiture of your claim.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: G. Whit Drake
Whit Drake is a Birmingham personal injury lawyer and founding member of Drake Law Firm. He has written numerous articles about legal topics in Alabama law. His firm focuses on construction accidents, auto wrecks, tractor-trailer accidents and wrongful death.
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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.