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Statute of Limitations

What is the Statute of Limitations in Rhode Island for a Personal Injury Claim?

In simple terms, the Statute of Limitations as it pertains to personal injury claims is the deadline for filing a lawsuit after an accident or injury. Legally speaking, it is the maximum amount of time after an event occurs in which you have to initiate legal proceedings. The time period for filing a lawsuit varies depending on the type of incident, the state in which it occurred, and who the potential defendant(s) may be. Therefore, it is critical to seek a qualified Rhode Island personal injury attorney like David Tapalian as soon as you are hurt to ensure your eligibility to file a personal injury claim within the required timeframe.

Rhode Island Deadlines for Injury Claims

In Rhode Island, the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury claim is generally three (3) years from the date of the incident for the great majority of injury claims. For example, if you were injured in a car accident on September 5, 2020, the deadline for filing a personal injury claim within the statute of limitations would be September 5, 2023.

Per RI General Laws § 9-1-14, Section B states that “Actions for injuries to the person shall be commenced and sued within three (3) years next after the cause of action shall accrue, and not after, except as provided for otherwise in subsection (c) herein.”

Filing an Injury Claim

What does “filing” a personal injury claim mean?  Filing can mean different things to different people. Often times when we have a personal injury claim in Rhode Island, the plaintiff and/or their attorney will send notice of a claim directly to the defendant and/or their insurance company. It is important to note that this does not stop the statute of limitations running - the only filing that stops the statue limitations is filing a civil lawsuit within the proper jurisdiction. That is, you have to initiate a legal civil complaint and file it in the proper court of competent jurisdiction to stop the statute from running.

However, it’s also important to understand that depending upon who the defendant(s) are, even though the accident and injury occurred in Rhode Island, there may be less time to file a civil action and certain notice requirements that must be met to preserve your claim. It is imperative to note that the statute of limitations for other types of civil incidents may vary and for the intents and purposes here, we are referring to acts of injury to a person in Rhode Island.

Following are some examples of how the Rhode Island Statute of Limitations typically applies to different types of personal injury claims in Rhode Island. It’s important to understand that these are representative of “standard” situations - all accidents and injury cases are different. Therefore, it is recommended to consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer about your particular Rhode Island accident or injury claim.

Car Accidents: Three (3)-year statute of limitations begins on the day the event, the motor vehicle collision, took place.

Slip & Fall: The deadline for filing a slip and fall personal injury claim in RI is 3 years from the date the slip, trip, or fall incident occurred.  Yet slip and falls, especially if a state or municipality is a potential defendant, may have certain notice requirements that begin very soon; in some cases 60 days, from the date of injury. Failure to be aware of these notice requirements for your personal injury case in Rhode Island could forever bar you from filing a claim.

Medical Malpractice: Typically, medical malpractice claims in Rhode Island must be filed within the 3-year statute of limitations deadline. This is, however, one area where the deadline may vary under very specific circumstances, per RI General Laws § 9-1-14.1.  One caveat would be if the patient was a minor at the time of the alleged medical malpractice. In that case the statute of limitations would begin to run on that person’s 18th birthday.  Under another circumstance, if the injury was not reasonably discoverable at the time of the occurrence, legal action must be commenced within three years of the time that the act of malpractice is, or should have been, reasonably discovered.

For instance, Joe Smith had an abdominal surgery procedure on May 10th, 2018 performed by a surgeon in a hospital in Rhode Island. Following the procedure, he had a normal recuperation. However, a month later he began to have sharp pains in his abdomen and visited his primary care physician. After various testing was performed that showed no irregularities and the cause of the pain could not be found, his doctor ordered an ultrasound of Joe’s abdomen. The ultrasound took place on August 1, 2018 and showed a small medical instrument inside his abdomen. Medical records and research identify the instrument as one used by the surgeon the day of the surgery; it had been negligently left inside his body prior to the sutures being closed. Subsequent surgery for removal of the foreign body, and recuperation, would follow. When filing a medical malpractice lawsuit, Mr. Smith’s attorney can likely argue that the statute of limitations would not begin on May 10, 2018, the original surgery date, but rather would likely begin on August 1, 2018, the date on which the instrument, the cause of injury, was discovered.

The above instance is purely hypothetical, and these types of medical malpractice cases are a lot more complex than this straightforward example. Due to the legal intricacies involved in a medical malpractice claim, a highly skilled Rhode Island personal injury lawyer is a must in order to have the strongest chance of renumeration for damages.

In this hypothetical example, the victim may not only be eligible for damages that include his medical expenses, but would likely also be rewarded compensation for pain and suffering for the ordeal caused by the surgeon’s and/or medical team’s negligence. When requesting an extension to the statute of limitations, the burden of proof is on the victim to prove that the injury went undetected. If the extension is approved, the statute of limitations will likely begin from the date the injury would have, or should have, been reasonably discovered.

Wrongful Death: Legal action for a wrongful death in RI must take place within three years after the death of the person.  Per RI General Laws § 10-7-2, if the death “caused by any wrongful act, neglect or default which is not known at the time of death, the action shall be commenced within three (3) years of the time that the wrongful act, neglect or default is discovered or, in the exercise of reasonable diligence, should have been discovered”. An attorney experienced with Rhode Island wrongful death laws can help grieving families determine their eligibility to file a wrongful death action and submit a claim with the designated time limits set by the law.

Workers Compensation: The time limits for filing a worker’s compensation claim in RI are different than for other injury claims. If you are hurt at work, notice of the injury must be given to your employer within thirty (30) days of the incident or manifestation of the injury. An employee’s claim for compensation must be filed within two (2) years after the event, or manifestation of the injury. In the case of death resulting from a work-related injury, legal action must be taken within 2 years of the date of death. Again, these types of situations vary widely, are quite complex, and are best navigated by a personal injury lawyer experienced with Rhode Island workers compensation law. 

What Happens if You Miss the Deadline for the Statute of Limitations?

If you miss the deadline and fail to file a personal injury claim prior to the end date for the statute, there is a strong likelihood your claim will go unheard. If your injury claim is not filed in a timely manner, it will likely be thrown out and you will be out of luck for making a successful claim for compensation. As mentioned above, there are limited instances such as in a medical malpractice claim where the injury went undiscovered for a period of time, but these situations are few and far between and subject to proven evidence. It is important to contact a well-qualified personal injury attorney in Rhode Island as soon as possible after you are hurt in order to preserve critical evidence and file your injury claim within the required timeframe.  

Filing a Lawsuit Within the RI Statute of Limitations Time Limits

After any type of injury, it’s important to seek immediate medical attention. Visit the emergency room, a walk-in medical clinic, or your personal physician depending on the circumstances, but always seek professional medical help even if you don’t think you are seriously hurt. If you are prescribed continual follow-up treatment, such as physical therapy or follow-up doctors’ visits, it’s critical you attend these sessions to ensure proper medical treatment and the best chance of recovery. If your doctor or medical professional recommends these visits and you fail to attend, or discontinue treatment on your own, this may affect the validity of your injury claim. If you discontinue treatment against your doctor’s advice, in legal proceedings it may appear you are not “as injured” as you claim to be and therefore, can negatively affect any potential compensation. As an experienced personal injury attorney in Rhode Island, David Tapalian can’t stress enough the importance of continuing recommended medical treatment until is determined, in a medical providers opinion, you havee made a full recovery, or the best recovery you can possibly expect.

Contact Tapalian Law for a Free Consultation

As a personal injury lawyer in Rhode Island and Massachusetts for over two decades, Attorney David Tapalian has the experience, dedication, and perseverance to seek maximum compensation from the at-fault party whether you are injured in a car accident, motorcycle accident, bike collision, slip and fall, at work, or the victim of medical malpractice. Tapalian Law has helped countless clients in RI and MA get rewarded damages including medical expenses, hospital bills, surgery, physical therapy, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Call our Providence personal injury law office today for a free consultation at 401-552-5000, or contact us online. With offices in Providence, RI, Warwick, RI, and Seekonk, MA, we are easily accessible and ready to begin helping you today.

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