How long do I have to file a lawsuit?

The Massachusetts statute of limitations for most personal injuries is three years, meaning that you have three years from the date of injury to file a claim before it is barred forever. The rules may seem harsh, but the rationale is to give potential defendants a date after which they can quit worrying whether you are going to sue. The law does not favor those who delay taking action.

The three-year time limit applies to most personal injury cases in Massachusetts, including the following:

  • Most intentional torts
  • Injury to property
  • Personal injury claims, except wrongful death, medical malpractice and products liability claims and personal injury claims for minors

Wrongful death claims

The statute of limitations in Massachusetts for wrongful death claims is three years from the date of death.

Medical malpractice claims

The time limit for filing a medical malpractice claim is three years from the date of discovery, which is the date you knew or should have known that you were a victim of medical malpractice. Medical malpractice claims arise when people are injured by the negligent or reckless actions of a doctor, nurse, hospital or other healthcare providers.

The time limit for medical malpractice claims begins on the date of discovery, rather than the date of injury, because an injury may be latent. Latent personal injuries are those that are not readily apparent but become known over time. Consider the traveling hospital worker who infected numerous patients with hepatitis because he was stealing narcotics from the storeroom and refilling the syringes with saline to hide his theft. Some at-risk patients may yet be unaware they have been infected by the hospital worker’s negligence or recklessness.

There is a maximum time limit for medical malpractice lawsuits of seven years. Even if your injury is latent, medical malpractice claims are barred after seven years from the date of injury, regardless of the date of discovery. If a patient contracts hepatitis from a contaminated syringe because of a negligent worker and does not find out until seven years after the hospital stay, a lawsuit cannot be brought against the medical provider.

Personal injury claims by minors

For minors injured due to the negligence or recklessness of another person or business, the clock starts ticking for the statute of limitations on the individual’s 18th birthday. The exceptions become applicable on the same date.

Products liability claims

Personal injuries arising from products liability claims are similar to medical malpractice claims in that the injury is often latent or not readily apparent. Asbestos cases are good examples of products liability claims that can arise from long-ago asbestos exposure. Some forms of asbestos-related mesothelioma may not appear for 50 years after exposure.

In products liability-related personal injury cases, the statute of limitations is three years from the date of discovery. Therefore, a mesothelioma patient has three years from the date of diagnosis for an asbestos-related illness to bring a lawsuit. Sadly, because mesothelioma is such a devastating disease, many patients do not even have three years to live after diagnosis.

Contact a Massachusetts personal injury attorney to preserve your right to file a claim

Thornton Law Firm LLP offers free consultations, and our legal services are provided on a contingency-fee basis. If we don’t win your case, you don’t pay. Our attorneys are dedicated to excellent client care. Call 1-888-491-9726 or contact us online to discuss your personal injury or wrongful death claim. We’re here when you need us most.