When we first sit down with a potential new client, one of the most important topics we discuss is the date by which a lawsuit must filed. Non-lawyers often do not realize that the law provides strict time limits within which lawsuits must be filed. These are called statutes of limitation, and in our state, they are set by the Montana Legislature.
The applicable statute of limitation depends upon the type of lawsuit being filed. Most personal injury lawsuits, which are based on negligence, must be filed within three years of one of two dates: (1) the date of the accident or injury; or (2) the date on which the facts that underlie the claim were discovered. Sometimes, these dates are different.
For example, broken bones and external bleeding are usually obvious immediately after an accident occurs. However, long-term neck or back pain may be diagnosed long after a car accident; the person who suffers from this pain may not realize, until told by a health care provider, that it was likely caused by a car accident months earlier. Wrongful death claims are also governed by a three-year limitations period unless they were the result of homicide, in which case a 10-year-period applies.
Medical and chiropractic claims must also be brought within a three-year period. However, in Montana, these claims must be submitted to a legal panel before they are brought. The three-year period does not begin to run until after the panel issues an order dismissing the case. To read more about these legal panels, see our earlier blog here.
Dram shop claims, which are brought against people or entities who provided alcohol to someone who later caused injury, carry a shorter time period. They also have special procedures that must be followed before the lawsuit is filed. In these actions, the limitations period starts running when the alcohol is sold, rather than when the injury occurs. The person who wishes to sue must provide notice within 180 days of the date of sale, and he or she must file the lawsuit within two years. If you would like to learn more about dram shop law in Montana, please see our separate blog here.
If you or a loved one have suffered injury in Western Montana, you’ll want to work with a lawyer who has extensive training and experience in personal injury law, including the proper calculation of statutes of limitation. The importance of these time periods cannot be overstated. If the deadline is missed, the lawsuit can be dismissed, and no damages will be awarded. At Tipp & Buley, we have extensive experience in personal injury claims and will provide you with meaningful, expert advice. To schedule a one-on-one consultation with one of our lawyers, please contact our firm online or call our office at 406-389-4215.