When you have a legal claim based on someone else’s wrongful conduct, whether it’s the failure to perform according to the terms of a contract, or a lawsuit for injuries sustained in an accident, you must file your claim within a specific period of time or it will be barred. There are a number of reasons for this rule, known as the statute of limitations. It helps ensure that evidence doesn’t get lost and that memories don’t fade. It also ensures that a person doesn’t live for a long period of time with a potential claim hanging over his or her head.
The statute of limitations can vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and can be different for different types of lawsuits. In New Jersey, the statute of limitations for personal injury is “two years after the cause of any such action shall have accrued.” This applies to cases where a person suffered injury and/or death, although the clock for filing a claim for a wrongful death starts on the date of death, not the date of injury.
So what happens if you are in an accident, you feel fine, but some time later you start to experience physical problems? Does the statute of limitations start to run when you were in the accident or when you became aware of the injury?
New Jersey, like many other states, has adopted the “discovery rule” with respect to when the statute of limitations starts to run on a personal injury claim. Under New Jersey law, the clock does not start to move on the statute of limitations until “the injured party discovers, or by the exercise of reasonable diligence and intelligence should have discovered” the injury. Accordingly, if your injury did not immediately manifest or was not apparent through reasonable observation, you will have two years from the date that you first became aware of the injury.