Statute of Limitations, Adults
How long you have to file a lawsuit is determined by the statute of limitations that applies to each case. A statute of limitations is a law that sets a time limit for when an injured party can file a case seeking damages in a Kansas court. In Kansas, the statute of limitations for a lawsuit based on injuries from a car accident is two years and is contained in K.S.A. § 60-513. (There may be much shorter notice requirements for certain government entities if it is the defendant.) This law applies not only to car accidents, but also to truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, product liability cases, slip and falls, and medical malpractice cases.
The Discovery Rule
Although the statute of limitations is strictly enforced, there are times when an injured party may be given additional time to file suit. The court may allow a party additional time when “the fact of injury is not reasonably ascertainable until sometime after the initial act, then the period of limitation shall not commence until the fact of injury becomes reasonably ascertainable to the injured party.” This is what is known as the discovery rule. The discovery rule contained in K.S.A. § 60-513 is applied more often to medical malpractice claims. It can toll the statute of limitations for a period of time until a person discovers that they were injured. The court will determine when the person who is injured knew, or by the exercise of reasonable diligence should have known, that he or she was injured. It is at that point that the statute of limitations will start to run.
Statute of Repose, Adults
There is a statute of repose contained within K.S.A § 60-513. A statute of repose, unlike a statute of limitations, will not be tolled by the discovery rule. See Dixon v. Klenda, 302 P.3d 1098 (Kan.App., 2013). Once the statute of repose expires, even if an injury is discovered later, the claim is extinguished. (Unless there was fraudulent concealment on the part of the defendant.) The statute of repose is 10 years for adults in Kansas. So, even if the discovery rule applies to extend the time for filing suit beyond the two-year statute of limitations, the suit must be filed within 10 years.
Statute of Limitations, Minor Children
A different statute of limitation applies to children. That statute provides that “if any person entitled to bring an action, other than for the recovery of real property or a penalty or a forfeiture, at the time the cause of action accrued or at any time during the period the statute of limitations is running, is less than 18 years of age, an incapacitated person or imprisoned for a term less than such person’s natural life, such person shall be entitled to bring such action within one year after the person’s disability is removed, except that no such action shall be commenced by or on behalf of any person under the disability more than eight years after the time of the act giving rise to the cause of action.” K.S.A. § 50-515.
So, just as you and I treat a child differently than an adult, so too do Kansas courts. The court will allow additional time for a child to file suit. In a car accident case where the injured party is a minor child, the statute of limitations can be extended up to a year from the child’s eighteenth birthday. This extension is limited though.
Statute of Repose, Minor Children
The provision in K.S.A. § 50-515, like K.S.A. § 50-513, contains a statute of repose. The provision in the statute that no action shall be commenced more than eight (8) years after the time of the act giving rise to the cause of action, is the statute of repose. The statute of repose in K.S.A § 50-515 applies to all claims that may be brought by a minor. So, it will apply to any lawsuit brought by a minor child for injuries from a car accident if the lawsuit is brought more than eight (8) years after the car accident. This is the case even if the minor child had not turned eighteen (18) at the time that the eight (8) year statute of repose expired.
Simple to Complex
The law starts with a relatively simple to understand rule: you have two years from the date of an accident to file a lawsuit. That easy to understand rule can and often does get much more complex quickly. Determining what statute of limitations applies, how long the statute of limitations provides for filing suit, whether there may be reasons for equitable tolling of the statute of limitations and whether a lawsuit is barred by a statue of repose are issues that require a clear understanding of the facts of the case and knowledge of the law that applies.
If you have questions about the statutes of limitations related to your case, get in touch with Southwest Kansas personal injury lawyer Joseph T. Welsh. He will speak with you personally and answer any questions you may have. He can evaluate your case and make you aware of your legal options. Contact Joe today at (620) 510-5030 for a free case evaluation.