Arizona Statute of Limitations
You do not have unlimited time to file a personal injury lawsuit in Arizona. The state’s statute of limitations restricts the time you have to bring a claim to court. In most cases, Arizona courts will not hear your injury case after the statute of limitations expires. Do not wait to seek legal help and begin your claim, as you risk the statute of limitations running out.
How Does a Statute of Limitations Work?
Most states require plaintiffs to file civil lawsuits within specific time. It is critical to maintain the integrity of evidence and witness testimony, which can erode with time.
To prevent the constant threat of a lawsuit long after an event, statutes of limitations are in place to ensure that claims get filed in time while evidence is still relatively fresh.
Arizona Statutes of Limitations: Purpose and Application
Civil and criminal actions in Arizona are subject to different statutes of limitations. Defendants are protected from endless litigation by the statute of limitations, and plaintiffs are encouraged to bring lawsuits while evidence is still readily available and sufficient. Even if the defendant is legally liable, the court can dismiss the case against the defendant if the plaintiff fails to file a lawsuit within the allowed period.
While you can file a lawsuit in civil court beyond the statute of limitations, the defendant can file a motion to dismiss the case. If the court finds the statute of limitations expired with no applicable exception, the judge will dismiss your case.
What Are Some of the Most Popular Civil Claims?
Both individuals and companies can bring civil cases, and people file many different types of claims in civil court.
The following types of cases are common:
- Personal injury claims
- Contract disagreements
- Class action lawsuits
- Equitable claims
- Property debates
- Family law or divorce matters
Again, each type of case has a different deadline under state law.
Rules for Time Limits
A statute of limitations aims to keep the justice system fair. When a plaintiff recognizes signs of wrongdoing, they are encouraged to file a claim as soon as possible. While it takes time to prepare a lawsuit, you should never wait too long to begin the process.
The civil and criminal courts strictly enforce statutes of limitations in most cases. There are, however, some exceptions to Arizona’s statute of limitations.
The discovery rule is an exception to most statutes of limitations. It is not uncommon for people to discover personal injuries later in some cases. Symptoms of an injury may not be apparent until weeks after a car crash, for example. Similarly, a patient who undergoes surgery may not discover a foreign object left behind until months or years later.
It is common for statutes of limitations to toll (pause) when someone discovers an injury later. When you discover your injuries later than the date of the incident, you generally have two years from the date of discovery of damage to file a claim.
Get in touch with a personal injury lawyer to learn whether the discovery exception applies in your case and how long you have to file your injury lawsuit.
Additional Exceptions to the One-Year and Two-Year Rules
Of course, there are times when it is impossible to know for sure whether an injury has occurred. Sometimes you don’t realize the cause of an injury until much later. For instance, workplace pollution or exposure can cause cancer, and the effects of exposure may not be known for many years. Perhaps a long-term employee didn’t realize she suffered discrimination until several years later.
It is also possible for the statute of limitations to be tolled — or paused — for a predetermined time. When the plaintiff is under the age of 18 or mentally incompetent, this can happen. Contracts may also shorten statutes of limitations.
The three-year limitation applies to damages for mistakes or fraud and open or stated accounts and debts from breached oral contracts. A verbal contract can refer to a monetary loan, while an open account refers to debts with revolving balances, like credit cards or lines of credit.
There is a four-year limit on filing claims for damage on a bond, the penalty clause of a partnership account, settlement of trade between merchants, or breach of a sale contract. The bond covers contracts involving real estate to convey property.
Arizona allows creditors with a written contract against a debtor to sue for damages within six years. Credit card companies can seek payment from cardholders, or business entities can enter into a debt collection agreement with another party within the state to seek payment.
How Long Do You Have to File a Lawsuit Against a State, County, or City?
Some injury claims are against a public entity, such as after a public school bus accident. Arizona requires you to file a claim against a public entity, public school, or public employee within 180 days of the alleged incident.
In writing, the claim must include the following information:
- The facts that allow the public entity or employee to understand the basis for claiming liability
- How much money you’re willing to accept to settle the claim
- Supporting evidence for that amount
Public entities or public employees must accept the service of process from the person authorized to accept it on their behalf. An employee or public entity has 60 days to respond once someone files a claim. You may file a lawsuit upon denial of your claim (or if no response is received). You must file this lawsuit within one year of your injury.
Contact an experienced personal injury lawyer in Arizona if you believe a public entity caused your injuries. If you file your claim with the wrong entity or miss the deadline, you may lose your right to sue.
Limitations on Cases Involving Minors
Arizona also has an exception for cases involving minor victims. The victim must file a personal injury claim within two years of their 18th birthday if the victim was under 18 at the time the cause of action accrued. There can be a lot of challenges in applying statutes of limitations to your case involving a minor.
Do Product Liability Cases Have Any Special Rules?
You must file a product liability lawsuit within two years since it is a type of personal injury case. A caveat, however, must be noted.
Unless you base your lawsuit on one of the following grounds, you must file it within 12 years of the product’s first sale to the general public:
- Manufacturers’ or sellers’ negligence
- Breach of an express warranty.
How Long Do Injured Workers Have to File Workers’ Compensation Cases Before They Expire?
People injured on the job must file workers’ compensation claims in Arizona within one year of the injury (or after discovering an injury or illness).
If you suffered an injury at work, you must file a Worker’s Report of Injury with the Industrial Commission of Arizona within one year of the injury, regardless of the forms your employer may file.
Is the Clock Ticking Yet?
You must know what time frame applies to filing a lawsuit within the applicable deadline.
A personal injury lawsuit has a two-year time limit from the date of the injury. The discovery rule or another exception, however, might delay the clock until the date you discover the injury (or until the date you should have discovered it).
Imagine being involved in a minor car accident on July 1, 2022. You don’t feel any pain, and the car has not sustained much damage. A week later, your neck begins stinging. Your doctor informs you that you are experiencing the delayed symptoms of whiplash injury caused by the car accident. How long do you have to file your lawsuit?
The clock normally starts ticking on the date of your injury (July 1, 2022). Therefore, you will have until July 1, 2024, to file your lawsuit. Due to the discovery rule, the clock will not begin until July 8, 2022 (the date you discovered your injury). Therefore, you will have until July 8, 2024, to file a lawsuit.
The clock may pause if a defendant leaves the state. If a person leaves Arizona after the accident but before you can file a lawsuit against them, the absence won’t count against the two-year statute of limitations period. When they’re out of state, the clock stops ticking.
Getting Caught up in a Statute of Limitations
Although Arizona allows for exceptions in cases to extend the limitations period, it is advisable to file a case as soon as it is practical or feasible to do so. As compared to investigating several years after the incident, physical evidence and witness memories tend to be much better just after the incident. A prosecutor must prove criminal charges, but you must prove your civil claim, and that requires convincing evidence.
You can take steps to support and preserve your injury case even after you have legal help. In particular, don’t sabotage your claim by using discussing the case with others or by posting anything on social media without your lawyer’s okay.
Is it Necessary to Resolve the Case by the Filing Deadline?
The statute of limitations gives you a two-year time limit for resolving your case, but it only addresses the deadline for filing a lawsuit. Complex cases may require more time to conclude. So long as you have filed your lawsuit within the statute of limitations, you can still use the prospect of a court verdict as leverage in settlement negotiations, even if more than two years have passed.
Do not risk missing your claim deadline by delaying seeking legal help.
When You Have Injuries, Seek Legal Counsel as Soon as Possible
Any individual who suspects they may have suffered an injury due to negligence or reckless act of another should immediately consult a personal injury attorney due to the critical importance of filing a lawsuit before the applicable statute of limitations expires.
If you or a family member has suffered an injury, contact a lawyer as soon as possible to protect your rights. A lawyer can explain how that statute of limitations will apply to your case, as well as how their firm can help. Protect your rights today. Do not risk losing your compensation.