If you or a loved one has sustained a personal injury or experienced property damage in the Bayou State, you may wonder how much time you have to seek justice. In these types of cases—where the injury or damage occurred as a result of someone else’s negligence—we always recommend that the injured party take swift action. In this article, we’ll explain the reasoning behind that recommendation, and explain everything you need to know about the Louisiana statute of limitations for personal injury cases.
Not sure how Louisiana personal injury laws might impact your case? Get in touch with us at Broussard + Williamson—we’re more than happy to answer your questions.
What is the Louisiana statute of limitations for personal injury cases?
Louisiana Civil Code Article 3492, Delictual Actions, indicates that you are allowed to seek damages for injury caused by the act or negligence of another person or entity for up to one year from the date you sustained injury or damage. In layman’s terms, this means you typically have one year from the day you were harmed to file suit.
The Louisiana statute of limitations for personal injury is actually referred to as a prescription in this state. Be aware of this so you’re not confused when you hire a lawyer or law firm experienced with personal injury cases, as these terms will likely be used interchangeably when speaking with them. You’ll also see the latter term on any legal documentation dealing with your case.
Statute Of Limitations: Louisiana’s Unique Timeframe
Louisiana’s one-year statute for personal injuries may come as a surprise to some, especially if you’re new to the state or know someone who’s had a personal injury case elsewhere in the country.
Its neighboring states, for example, all have longer statutes—Texas and Oklahoma both give two years from the date of injury, while Arkansas and Mississippi allow for three. In fact, Louisiana is one of only three states with a one-year statute—Kentucky and Tennessee are the other two.
Louisiana’s Personal Injury Statute Of Limitations: 4 Exceptions
While Louisiana’s personal injury statute of limitations is limited to one year in most scenarios, there are a few exceptions that alter the timeline:
1. A minor is injured.
If a minor suffers a personal injury as part of the incident, the statute does not apply to them until they turn 18. Therefore, the minor would be able to file anytime from the date of the injury until their 19th birthday.
2. The injury involves a crime of violence.
If you are injured due to a crime of violence—aggravated assault, kidnapping, robbery, etc.—you have two years to file suit under Louisiana Civil Code Article 3493.10, Delictual Actions; Two-Year Prescription; Criminal Act.
3. The cause, culprit, or injury isn’t immediately known.
In many situations—such as auto accidents where you exchange insurance and contact information—you know who caused you harm.
However, sometimes circumstances prevent you from immediately knowing who or what caused you harm—consider a hit-and-run or a mugging where the culprit escaped without you learning their identity. In these situations, Louisiana’s discovery rule comes into play. With the discovery rule, the statute of limitations doesn’t come into effect until you identify the cause or culprit responsible for your injury.
Interrupted & Suspended Prescription
There are two important terms you should know about when it comes to Louisiana’s statute of limitations:
- Interrupted prescription restarts or removes the timeframe in which you can file a lawsuit, assuming you file against at least one viable defendant within the initial one-year requirement. For example, say a man crashes into you from behind, which results in you breaking your arm. You find out the accident was caused by a combination of his negligence and improperly installed brake pads. As long as you filed suit against either the man or the person/company behind the installation within one year of the accident, you could sue the other party beyond that timeframe.
- Suspended prescription temporarily pauses the timeframe in which you can file a lawsuit. For example, Louisiana legislatively created suspensions for all prescriptions in the state from March 16 to July 25 of 2020 for the COVID-19 pandemic. This essentially froze the clock for 111 days for anyone wanting to file suit in the state.
4. The injury is caused by medical malpractice.
With personal injuries that stem from medical malpractice, cases fall under both Louisiana’s statute of limitations (one year) and its statute of repose (three years). Here’s how that works:
- Before filing a standard lawsuit for negligence or harm, you must first file a medical malpractice claim—the one-year statute applies here—with a medical review panel, which will evaluate your claim for merit.
- You must wait for the panel to render a decision on your claim. Note that the claim suspends the statute during the time of review plus 90 days after the decision. So if the panel takes 110 days to render a decision, the statute for your case would be suspended (paused) for a total of 200 days (110 + 90).
- If you were not immediately aware of the negligence or harm—recall the discovery rule—the statute of limitations would not apply until you identify the negligence. However, Louisiana’s statute of repose limits your timeframe to file a medical malpractice claim to three years, regardless of when you became aware of the negligence.
Statute Of Limitations In Louisiana: 4 Examples
If you’re still unsure about how and when Louisiana’s personal injury statute of limitations applies, the below examples should provide clarity.
1. Multi-Vehicle Auto Accident
Say you’re in an accident involving three vehicles: your car, a blue car behind you, and a red truck behind the blue car. The red truck slams into the blue car, knocking it into yours. Both your car and leg are damaged in the accident.
You have one year from the date of the accident to sue one or both of the owners of the other vehicles. If you choose to sue only one of the other vehicle owners, interrupted prescription may come into play—you can then sue the other vehicle owner beyond the one-year timeframe, as long as the first owner you sued is assigned some type of fault in your case.
2. Hit-And-Run Auto Accident
You’re sitting at a red light in your car. As soon as the light turns green, you accelerate and move into the intersection. An SUV runs the red light and clips the back of your car on the driver’s side, causing you serious injury and medical bills. The driver leaves the scene before you are able to get any identifying information.
Police investigate the hit-and-run and identify the driver three months later. The statute of limitations applies from the day they notify you of the driver’s identity, despite the accident occurring three months prior—this is a suspended prescription because of the discovery rule.
3. Boat Injury
You’ve taken a boat out on the lake for a day of fishing. While maneuvering through the water, the boat experiences a mechanical failure, causing the boat to make a sharp turn. You are ejected and injured as a result.
Not having much knowledge of boats, you’re not immediately aware what specifically caused the failure. But after taking reasonable steps to pinpoint the faulty part, you identify the manufacturer of the defect. The discovery rule may extend the statute of limitations. But you will need to show you took reasonable action to determine the at-fault party. .
4. Post-Surgery Injury
After a lengthy recovery period from what you believed was a successful surgery, you start getting sick. At first you ignore it but eventually you visit your doctor, who orders imaging. The imaging reveals that a surgical sponge was left in your body and is causing you to be sick.
It’s been 30 months since your surgery. Typically, you would have one year from the date you discovered the negligence leading to your injury to file suit; however, the three-year statute of repose for medical malpractice cases would mean you now have six months left to file suit in this example.
Make sure your personal injury case is in experienced, caring hands. Choose Broussard + Williamson.
For 30 years, Broussard + Williamson has been fighting the good fight in Louisiana. We’ve handled numerous personal injury cases dealing with auto accidents, medical malpractice, maritime events, and a host of other circumstances.
Many of our attorneys started out on the defense side of the table, so we know exactly how the defense operates and what tactics they use to give your case the runaround.
If you’re ready to file your personal injury lawsuit or just want to learn more about how we can help you and your family, reach out here.