How Long Do I Have To File a Personal Injury Lawsuit in Kansas City?
If you’ve been injured by an accident in Kansas City because of someone else’s negligence, you may be seeking compensation for your losses. However, there is a time limit following an accident after which you can no longer file a lawsuit against the defendant.
This statute of limitations deadline varies from state to state. It can also differ depending on your particular type of accident: wrongful death and medical malpractice cases, for example, have a different deadline than car accidents in Missouri.
To determine exactly how the statute of limitations applies to your particular case, it is important to consult with an experienced local personal injury lawyer. In the meantime, here is an overview of how personal injury lawsuit deadlines work in Kansas City.
A Five-Year Deadline in Missouri
Accident victims living in Kansas City, MO are fortunate that Missouri law allows five years to pursue legal action following the date of an accident. This is a good deal longer than the two-year deadline imposed by most states.
This five-year Missouri filing time frame applies to most types of personal injury cases, including car accidents, slip-and-fall accidents, workplace accidents, dog bites, and product liability claims. But wrongful death and medical malpractice cases have different deadlines.
If someone dies as a result of another party’s wrongful conduct or negligence, then the loved ones of the deceased individual can often seek compensation for their losses. In Missouri, you only have three years following the date of death to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
When a physician, hospital, or any other medical care provider acts with negligence that results in a patient’s injury, the victim can file a medical malpractice claim against the provider. But the time limit for filing a medical malpractice claim is only two years in Missouri.
The complex nature of medical malpractice injuries does, however, frequently allow for extensions on this two-year timeframe. One example of this is when the victim only discovers their injury and the healthcare provider’s liability at a later date. We’ll look into exceptions to the statute of limitations below.
Kansas Deadlines on Personal Injury Claims
The Kansas City Metropolis area comprises two legally distinct cities in two separate states: Missouri and Kansas. Each state has a different statute of limitations on a personal injury claim or lawsuit.
The state of Kansas only allows two years following an accident to pursue legal action. So if you live on the Kansas side of Kansas City, you have a considerably shorter time frame in which to recover compensation via legal means.
This two-year deadline in Kansas applies across the board to all types of personal injury claims, including medical malpractice and wrongful death. Once again, always ask a personal injury lawyer to confirm exactly how long the local law permits for your particular case.
The Purpose of the Statute of Limitations
These strict legal time limits in personal injury law are designed to ensure fairness for would-be defendants. As time passes following an accident, evidence can become lost or too unreliable for a fair court trial.
The memories of eyewitnesses can also fade. And eyewitness accounts often play a key role in car accident cases and many other types of personal injury claims: another reason to act quickly following your accident if you intend to recover fair compensation.
Possible Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations
If your accident happened over five years ago, so you’ve missed Missouri’s five-year deadline, it’s worth asking your personal injury attorney if there’s any way around the statute for your claim. The following are four conditions that may sometimes allow the Statute of Limitations to be circumnavigated.
1. The Injury and Liable Party Were Only Discovered at a Later Date
In the typical car crash case, the start date of the time limit is pretty straightforward: the statute of limitations clock starts ticking from the day of the accident. Likewise, the at-fault party is often immediately clear in a straightforward rear-end collision where the victim was correctly following the rules of the road.
But in some cases, the accident victim doesn’t discover that they’re injured until a later date. And even if they discover the injury, they might not immediately know how it was caused.
In these situations, the five-year Missouri time limit only begins on the date the victim knows they are injured and also discovers who caused their injury. When enacted, this is called the discovery rule. Two common examples of this are toxic exposure and medical malpractice cases.
Delayed Discovery With Toxic Exposure
The discovery rule is frequently used when a victim has experienced toxic exposure in their home or workplace that caused sickness over time. For instance, if a victim is unknowingly exposed to asbestos in the insulation of their home, then they might develop cancer an entire decade later. And even when the cancer is diagnosed, they might still not know the cause for months or even years.
Under the discovery rule, the statute of limitations on filing a lawsuit against the liable party would only begin from the date the victim learned that their cancer was caused by asbestos in their home. In Missouri, the victim would then have five years to file their lawsuit from that discovery date, even though the wrongful act was initiated over ten years previously.
Delayed Discovery in Medical Malpractice
The discovery rule is also quite often used in medical malpractice cases when injuries are not immediately apparent. If a doctor fails to inform their patient about some important test results that would have prompted crucial and timely medical treatment, this oversight might not be discovered until a much later date.
Likewise, when a surgeon leaves a foreign object inside a patient, the patient sometimes doesn’t find out until months or years later. According to the discovery rule, the clock should only start ticking from the date of discovering the foreign object in their body.
2. The Defendant Has Been Out of State
You may also have grounds to extend the statute of limitations if the defendant has been outside of Missouri for a prolonged period since the accident. The statute of limitations clock effectively stops when the defendant leaves the state and restarts when they return.
For example, if the at-fault party left Missouri for two years following an accident, making it difficult to pursue legal action against them, then it may be possible to add two years to the five-year Missouri time limit. So your new total time limit would be seven years.
3. The Plaintiff Is Still a Minor
When the victim of an accident is under 18 years of age, they’re considered to be lacking the legal capacity to make important decisions. In these cases, the statute of limitations doesn’t begin until they turn 18.
4. The Plaintiff Has Been Mentally Incapacitated
Another situation where the plaintiff could be considered legally incapable of making decisions is if they are somehow mentally disabled. For instance, a severe brain injury resulting from a car accident might prevent the victim from being capable of pursuing legal action. The statute of limitations might therefore be extended by the amount of time for which they were deemed mentally incapacitated.
What Happens After the Deadline Has Passed?
Once a statute of limitations has expired, the case becomes time-barred, which means legal action is prohibited. Beyond this point, if you attempt to file a personal injury lawsuit, the defendant can simply ask to have the lawsuit dismissed. And unless you have a suitable reason for extending the time limit, the judge will usually do just that.
Don’t Expect a Fair Settlement Once Your Time Is Up
Most personal injury claims are settled out of court: about 95% of them. But whether or not you expect to require a lawsuit, it’s usually wise to keep that door open as an option.
In a typical personal injury case, when you hire a lawyer, they’ll first file a claim with the other driver’s insurance company. After calculating your damages, your lawyer will send a demand letter to the insurer stipulating the total settlement figure you wish to receive.
The insurance company will often respond with an initial settlement offer which will usually be far lower than your desired figure. And so, a period of negotiation will ensue between your lawyer and the insurer. All the while, the threat of a lawsuit hangs in the air: if the insurance company doesn’t agree to a fair settlement, you might file a lawsuit and take the case to be determined before a judge and jury in court.
You May Lose Significant Negotiating Power
But if the statute of limitations deadline has already passed, you can no longer threaten to sue the defendant. You no longer have legal recourse, and you lose negotiating strength. As a result, any settlement figure eventually paid out is likely to be less than you were hoping to receive.
The money might be too little to cover your ongoing medical bills, lost wages, physical pain and suffering compensation, and all your other damages. Such an outcome can be emotionally and financially devastating to many accident victims.
To avoid this worst-case scenario, it’s advisable to do everything in your power to progress your initial claim as rapidly as possible. But without an experienced personal injury attorney in your corner, this isn’t always easy.
Why Insurance Companies Sometimes Draw Cases Out
In any personal injury case, it’s important to know that the insurance company plays an adversarial role: they’re working against you. It’s in their best financial interests to minimize payouts by devaluing claims or denying them altogether.
For this reason, insurance companies frequently seek to draw cases out. For one, they are well aware that you only have a given number of years from the date of the accident to pursue legal action. Apart from this, they have additional incentives to employ delay tactics.
As the victim, you’re facing a very stressful and disruptive situation. Your medical expenses are probably growing week after week, and you might be out of work because of your injuries.
The insurance company knows that the more the case drags on, the more likely you are to become demoralized and exhausted by it all, and therefore the more willing you may become to accept any settlement offer, even if it’s less than you initially hoped for.
On top of this, an insurance company simply improves its cash flow by delaying payouts. The longer money is resting in its bank accounts, earning interest in other investments, the more profitable a business becomes.
The Delaying Tactics of Insurance Companies
After your initial complaint and the first lowball settlement offer, you might suddenly find it difficult to get a hold of your insurance provider. They may take forever to return your calls or “forget” to return them at all.
They may start sending you more and more complex and seemingly unnecessary paperwork. And when you send it back to them, they take forever to process it and sometimes even deny having received it.
They might suddenly switch your case over to a different insurance adjuster at the company, who then needs time to get up to speed. They might also dispute the value of your damages, the severity of your injuries, or the defendant’s liability in an apparently insincere way. All the while, your hospital bills are increasing, and your nerves are worsening.
Your Personal Injury Attorney Can Speed Things Up
Dealing directly with an insurance provider often involves a great deal of stress, frustration, and confusion. The primary way to relieve yourself of this burden is to hire a good attorney who can carry it for you.
Experienced personal injury lawyers are experts at handling insurance companies. They understand the oftentimes crafty negotiating and delaying strategies that insurers employ and know how to counter them effectively to keep a case moving forward. Your lawyer can take over all communications with the insurer right from the start and work hard to progress your case as rapidly as possible toward a successful resolution.
Avoid Filing Mistakes That Can Delay Your Claim
Ideally, you should have your car accident attorney or medical malpractice attorney submit the insurance claim paperwork for you. This will ensure that you don’t make the common filing mistakes that many unrepresented claimants make.
When errors exist in the paperwork, it plays into the insurance company’s hands. The ensuing back and forth to correct those errors wastes time, money, and energy and brings you closer to the Missouri personal injury statute of limitations.
And if you intend to file a lawsuit, the requisite paperwork and procedure required for personal injury litigation are even more strict than when filing an insurance claim. It’s considered very unwise to file a civil lawsuit without a lawyer, even with simple auto accidents in small claims court.
Prompt Action Can Strengthen Your Personal Injury Claim
While the five-year Missouri statute of limitations may seem like a generous filing deadline, it’s unwise to delay initiating your claim. With a typical car accident claim and most other kinds of claims, it’s optimal to act as promptly as possible after the accident happens.
This is because you need enough evidence to prove the defendant’s negligence and also to prove the full value of your damages. This includes economic damages such as medical bills and lost wages, and also non-economic damages such as pain and suffering and emotional distress.
But as the weeks and months pass, it becomes harder to gather evidence. Over time, evidence can become lost or otherwise harder to acquire. As previously mentioned, the memories of eyewitnesses can also become less reliable, and it might become harder to contact them as some witnesses move away from the area.
Hire a Lawyer From the Get-Go
For a successful personal injury claim, it’s often best to hire a good personal injury attorney immediately following the accident. To find the most suitable attorney, you can usually request a free consultation and free case evaluation and hire them on a contingency fee basis, whereby their legal fees will only be paid out of the final settlement or case award.
Once hired, your lawyer will leap into action. They will investigate the accident, calculate your damages, file a personal injury claim for you, negotiate with the insurance company, and do their best to accelerate your claim and recover damages that fully and fairly compensate you for your losses.
How Long Personal Injury Lawsuits Typically Last
The total time that it takes for a personal injury case to reach a conclusion can vary a great deal. For the majority of cases, the injured party is typically looking at a time frame of between four and twelve months.
But a very straightforward auto accident case with clear liability and minor injuries might take as little as a month or two. At the other end of the scale, an extremely complex medical malpractice case with catastrophic injuries, unclear liability, multiple defendants, and large medical companies involved might take five years or more to reach a resolution.
Factors That Cause a Case to Last Longer
Generally speaking, the more complex the case, the longer it takes to resolve. Severe and long-lasting injuries that require greater compensatory damages also tend to cause negotiations to become more drawn out and difficult. As does unclear or disputed liability.
Cases that often involve large and well-funded organizations, such as premises liability, product liability, workplace injury, government entity, and medical malpractice claims, will also usually last longer. This includes car accidents involving commercial trucks.
These kinds of defendants have strong legal teams. And the at-fault party’s liability can also be the most challenging to prove when a product, premises, or medical mistake caused the injury.
Medical Malpractice Cases Tend To Last the Longest
Above all others, medical malpractice cases are notoriously difficult to win as it’s often extremely difficult to prove a doctor’s negligence. This is primarily because negative health outcomes sometimes occur during all kinds of medical treatment, even when the physician acts without negligence. On top of this, modern specialist medicine is often very specialist and complex, making it difficult to understand and prove exactly what occurred.
These factors tend to make medical malpractice the longest-lasting of all personal injury cases. And as medical malpractice lawsuits only have a two-year statute of limitations in Missouri, there’s more urgency than any other case type to act quickly.
If you need an experienced personal injury attorney to fight your corner in Kansas City, contact Wendt Law at 816-542-6734 for a free consultation. Our award-winning attorneys have won over $100,000,000 for our clients. We can handle your claim, negotiate with the insurance company, and battle hard to win you the full and fair compensation you deserve.