In civil cases, the statute of limitations sets the deadline by which a person must start a lawsuit. The statute of limitations sets forth in law how long one has to initiate legal proceedings for another person or party’s wrongful conduct. For civil lawsuits such as medical malpractice, wrongful death, car accidents, slip and fall and personal injury cases, the statute of limitations determines how long one has to file a summons and complaint, which formally starts a lawsuit. Once the time specified in the statute of limitations expires, a person can no longer file a lawsuit on the matter unless granted an exemption.
There is no universal statute of limitations. The time period to bring a legal action will vary based on the type of case, the defendant and the court in which a case is brought. The statute of limitations varies significantly for cases against municipalities (such as the City of New York) and municipal agencies (such as the Metropolitan Transportation Agency – MTA). They also vary for cases brought by or on behalf of a minor.
As you read this material, you will see that the concept of the statute of limitations is complex and can result in the dismissal of an otherwise perfectly valid lawsuit. The information I present here is meant as a general guide and not a specific or definitive analysis of the timeframe for you to bring a lawsuit for a specific case. If you have questions, you should consult an experienced New York attorney.
The Statute of Limitations Applies to Legal Remedies, Not Insurance Coverage
The Statute of Limitations applies to bringing lawsuits. It does not apply to matters such as filing insurance claims. For example, the statute of limitations for bringing a lawsuit over a motor vehicle accident (against a non-municipal defendant) is three years, yet you only have 30 days to file a No-Fault Insurance claim. Likewise, you must notify your employer within 30 days of an incident to file a claim for Worker’s Compensation. (There are some exceptions to the Worker’s Compensation deadline and you may want to consult an attorney if you have questions.)
Examples of the Statute of Limitations in New York
In general, the Statute of Limitations in New York varies by type of case, though there is a separate set of guidelines for actions brought against municipalities (e.g. the City of New York) and municipal agencies (e.g., The Metropolitan Transportation Authority) and on behalf of minors. I address those topics later in this article.
Here are some sample Statutes of Limitations in New York:
- Car Accident Cases (and other Motor Vehicle Cases): New York State law permits you to start a lawsuit within three years from the date of the accident. This applies to cases involving two or more motor vehicles or motor vehicles involved in accidents with pedestrians or bicyclists. Note: While the statute of limitations for bringing a lawsuit is three years, New York No-Fault insurance requires you to file a claim within thirty days of the accident.
- Medical Malpractice Cases: In New York State, a person must file a medical malpractice lawsuit no later than two and a half years (30 months) from the malpractice act (or omission) or from the end of the continuous treatment during which the act or omission took place. There are medical malpractice cases with different timeframes. For example, claims against municipal hospitals or clinics face much shorter filing dates. If a minor suffers damages due to medical malpractice, New York extends the statute of limitations to three years past the date on which the minor turns 18; however, the action cannot start later than ten years from the date of the incident or the last day of treatment (whichever is later). You can read more about medical malpractice statute of limitations here.
- Slip and Fall Cases: New York State law allows three years from the date of the accident to bring a lawsuit.
- Wrongful Death Cases: New York State law allows two years from the date of the death to bring a lawsuit.
- Products Liability Cases: New York State law allows three years from the date of the accident to bring a lawsuit.
- Intentional Act (such as battery): New York State law allows one year from the date of the accident to bring a lawsuit.
- Personal Injury Cases: New York State law allows three years from the date of the accident to bring a lawsuit.
- Fraud: New York State law allows six years from the date of the fraudulent act to bring a lawsuit.
- Contracts: New York State law allows six years from the date of the breach to bring a lawsuit.
- Defamation of Character (including Libel and Slander): New York State law allows one year from the date of the incident to bring a lawsuit.
Lawsuits Involving a Municipality or Municipal Agency
New York State Law affords special protection for municipalities and municipal agencies. Before you can bring a lawsuit against a municipal agency, you must file a Notice of Claim. You must file that Notice of Claim within 90 days of the incident or accident.
The Notice of Claim gives the municipality or municipal agency 30 days to request a pre-suit hearing (a 50-h hearing) or a pre-suit medical exam. If the municipality or municipal agency requests a pre-suit hearing or medical exam, you cannot file a lawsuit until after the completion of the hearing or medical exam.
For a legal action against a municipality or municipal agency, you must file the action within one year and 90 days from the date of the accident or incident. If the suit involves the MTA, you must file the suit against the MTA within one year and 30 days of the incident.
Municipalities include the City of New York and all the cities, towns and villages within the State of New York. Municipal agencies include the New York City Housing Authority, all of the public transportation systems, bridge and tunnel authorities, water authorities and other organizations operating as public agencies.
Lawsuits Involving a Minor
New York State law recognizes that damages done to minors present special challenges. As a result, New York State Law generally delays the start of the statute of limitations until the minor turns 18. Here are some examples as they apply to lawsuits on behalf of a minor:
The statute of limitations for a car accident is still three years, but the three years does not start until the minor turns 18 years old.
- The statute of limitations for an intentional act is still one year, but that one year does not start until the minor turns 18.
- The statute of limitations for bring a lawsuit against a municipality remains one year and 90 days, but does not commence until the minor turns 18.
- The statute of limitations for medical malpractice remains 30 months and does not commence until the minor turns 18. However, a medical malpractice lawsuit must start no later than 10 years from the incident or the end of treatment.
I hope you have found this information helpful. I do need to remind you that this information offers general guidelines. If you have questions about a specific case, you should consult an experienced lawyer in New York. I will be glad to answer your questions and assist you. You can call me at 1-800-660-1466 or email me. You can also visit my website or read more on my blog, New York Law Thoughts.
Carol L. Schlitt
New York Personal Injury Attorney
This material is intended for informational uses only. It is not meant as legal advice. To receive legal advice, you should consult an attorney.