Personal Injury Claims and the Missouri Statute of Limitations
In every state, when someone is injured in an accident, state law requires that the injured party bring their claim against the responsible party within a certain period of time. The law that sets this limitation on time is called the “statute of limitations.” It doesn’t matter if you are involved in a car accident, truck accident, slip-and-fall, motorcycle accident, pedestrian accident, or an accident at work; every type of accident has a statute of limitations that requires you to raise your claim within a certain amount of time after the accident. This includes bicycle accidents.
If you have been injured in a bicycle accident in Missouri that was someone else’s fault, you are entitled to raise a claim against the person responsible for the accident and to be compensated for your injuries. Like any other type of accident case, however, you only have a certain period of time in which to raise your claim in Missouri. If you don’t raise your claim “before the clock runs out,” then you will not be able to recover any damages from the person responsible for your injuries.
To be sure you raise your claim for injuries sustained in a bicycle accident within the time afforded under the Missouri statute of limitations, call the bicycle accident attorneys at Foster Wallace, LLC. We will make sure your claim is filed in a timely manner so that you are compensated for the maximum amount to which you are entitled for your injuries.
What is the Statute of Limitations for Bicycle Accidents in Missouri?
Missouri law sets the time period for raising a claim for injuries sustained in a bicycle accident at five (5) years. This time limitation is set out in a Missouri law (or “statute”) numbered 516.120. Section four of Missouri Statute 516.120 provides that:
“[a]n action for . . . injuring any goods . . . including actions for the recovery of specific personal property, or for any other injury to the person or rights of another . . .”
are subject to a five (5)-year statute of limitations period. This means that if you were injured in a bicycle accident (injury to the person), or even if you were not physically injured but your bicycle was damaged (injury to your goods or personal property), you must raise your claim against the responsible party within five (5) years. Otherwise, your action for damages will be “barred” or prohibited, and you will not be able to recover any damages for your injuries.
When Does the 5-Year Statute of Limitations Period Start?
The Missouri 5-year statute of limitations period starts or “begins to run” at the time the injury that you sustain “accrues.” This is just a fancy legal term to say that your statute of limitations clock begins ticking from the time you first become aware that you have sustained an injury and have a right to assert a claim against the responsible party.
For example, suppose you are legally riding your bicycle across an intersection and someone driving their car runs the red light and hits you. As a result of the accident, you suffer obvious physical injuries, such as a broken leg or a laceration to your head, for example, for which you are treated at the hospital immediately. In this case, your 5-year limitations period to bring your claim would begin to run on the date of your accident, since you became aware on that date that you were injured as a result of the accident.
However, suppose you were struck by the same vehicle but did not suffer a broken leg or any obvious lacerations or other injuries. Instead, when you were struck, you fell from your bicycle and struck your head on the curb. Perhaps you were shaken or disoriented but did not suffer any obvious injury that you were aware of at the time. Instead, you picked up your bicycle and went home. Suppose, however, that several days later, you begin to experience severe headaches, nausea, or blurred vision. After ten days of suffering with these symptoms, you go to the hospital to be evaluated. The doctor determines that you suffered an internal head trauma as a result of your bicycle accident. In this case, you were not aware that you had suffered any injury as a result of the accident until ten days after the accident. Thus, your limitations period for raising a claim for damages may not begin to run until ten days after the accident--the date that you realized you sustained an injury in the accident.
Consider, however, that the rule for determining when your cause of action (or claim) “accrues” is based on when a “reasonable person” would have reason to know that they may have sustained an injury as a result of the accident. So, in the scenario described above, it may be argued that a “reasonable person” would have known that they may have sustained an injury as a result of the accident on the date that they started experiencing headaches, nausea, and blurred vision—not on the date that the doctor diagnosed the injury.
While these types of distinctions are important in terms of knowing exactly when your limitations period begins, they are details that your attorney will address with you when you discuss your case. This is why it is important that you consult with an attorney as soon as possible. However, what is important is that you know that you have only five years within which to raise your claim in Missouri.
Can I File My Claim for Injuries If My Injuries Are Not Fully Healed?
You may be wondering how you can file a claim for damages resulting from a bicycle accident if you don’t yet know the full extent of your damages because you have not yet fully recovered from your injuries. For example, suppose you suffer a serious injury, like a broken neck, in your bicycle accident, and you continue to incur expenses as a result of your long-term treatment and rehabilitation well beyond five years after the accident. In this case, if you have to wait to file your claim until you know the full extent of your damages, you would not be able to file your claim within the 5-year limitations period required by Missouri law.
Fortunately, Missouri law allows you to file your claim for damages once you know that damages have occurred, not necessarily when you determine the extent or amount of damages that you suffered. Therefore, you should not wait to file your claim for damages until you determine the full extent of your damages if your 5-year limitations period is about to expire.
Are There Any Exceptions to the Five-Year Statute of Limitations for Bicycle Accidents?
Under Missouri law, there may be an exception to the 5-year limitations period for bicycle accident cases. According to section 516.170 of the Missouri statutes, you may delay the filing of an action beyond the 5-year period if the person injured on the bicycle is under 21 years of age or is mentally incapacitated. This means that if your child, who is under 21 years old or is mentally incapacitated, is injured in a bicycle accident, you do not have to assert a claim for damages until the child reaches the age of 21 or is no longer mentally disabled.
How Long Should I Wait to File My Bicycle Accident Claim?
Under Missouri law, if you were injured in a bicycle accident as an adult, generally, you may wait up to five years to file your bicycle accident claim. If your child was injured in a bicycle accident, you have until your child turns 21 years old to assert their claim. However, in either case, there may be advantages and disadvantages to filing as soon as possible or to waiting as long as you can before five years have passed. The answer may be different for every bicycle accident victim.