New Jersey’s Statute of Limitations for Minors

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by Craig Aronow, Esq.

Breaking Down New Jersey’s Statute of Limitations for Minors

The New Jersey statute of limitations defines the timeframe within which an individual has to have their personal injury claim filed. This is usually determined by the date that the incident occurred. Multiple statutes contain the complete list of these limitations including the New Jersey Statutes Annotated at NJSA 2A:14 and NJSA 2A:31, which deal with wrongful death actions.

What Are Statutes of Limitations?

These laws exist to designate the time period that is allowed for an individual to take legal action in the form of a claim or lawsuit. Waiting to take legal action until after the time period has expired generally results in the case not being pursuable or at least makes it much more difficult.

The rules work differently depending on the type of case. For lawsuits of a personal injury nature that involve minors, they must happen within two years of the plaintiff’s 18th birthday.

The Basics

Although the New Jersey statute of limitations provides a two-year period for personal injury claims to be filed, when dealing with a minor, this statute doesn’t commence until the individual turns 18 and becomes a legal adult. Also, remember that any injury relating to medical malpractice that the minor experienced at birth is not applicable to this two-year statute of limitations.

Types of Cases and Their Statutes of Limitations

In New Jersey, the medical malpractice statute of limitations is one year. All actions at law for injuries caused by this wrongful act or neglect have to be taken before one year has passed after the cause of the wrongful action. The exception to the rule is when an action is made either on behalf of a minor or by the minor for injuries that were sustained when the minor was born. These must be commenced before the individual turns 13.

In cases of negligence and personal injury, the discovery rule is followed and the statute of limitations commences as soon as the action has been discovered. Keep in mind that New Jersey is among the no-fault states, meaning that your insurance company will likely pay for damages no matter who caused the accident.

For wrongful death cases, all actions that are brought as a part of this chapter must commence within this two-year period following the decedent’s death. However, there are some cases where legal action may be taken at any time, including when the death was the result of murder, aggravated manslaughter, or manslaughter that the defendant has been convicted of but later found to be innocent by pleading insanity.

The discovery rule specifies that the medical malpractice limitation period is two years after the date that the patient believes that the poor medical treatment occurred, causing their injuries. The State of Repose for Product Liability in New Jersey is two years and has identical guidelines to toxic tort cases because they are both categorized under a common statute.

The discovery rule applies to product liability actions with the exception of cases in which the law explicitly states otherwise. Still, the cause of action is usually accrued on the date that the injury took place.

Why Are Statutes of Limitations Important?

The preservation of the evidence is one of the most important reasons. With every passing day, the likelihood increases that the evidence pertaining to the case will be compromised or lost completely. The circumstances surrounding the situation itself may also change significantly if an extended amount of time is allowed to pass.

Memory has been shown to be highly unreliable, increasingly so as time goes on. The longer a plaintiff waits to take legal action, the more likely a witness is to misremember events, adding further complications to the case.

These statutes are also essential to make things fair to all parties involved. Without statutes of limitations, it would be possible to bring legal action against someone no matter how long it had been since the incident. This would put the defendant in a highly indefensible situation since the likelihood of having any evidence to clear your name is so low. Once enough time has passed, there will be no evidence left for the person to defend themselves with.

Exceptions to the Rule

In some cases, however, exceptions are made. One common example is when the injury in question wasn’t initially obvious. This may be due to exposure to harmful chemicals in the work environment, for instance, which doesn’t necessarily present itself symptomatically right away.

In those situations, the period may be tolled, which means that the time period defined in the statute of limitations doesn’t begin until either the person discovers the injury or, when it is a minor, until they are able to bring the lawsuit.

An attorney will be able to tell you comprehensively the most up-to-date statute rules. It’s important to make sure the information you’re working with is current for your local statutes as these laws are always in flux and subject to change.

For medical malpractice cases with minors, the lawsuit must be brought within two years of the individual turning 18. This is except when the injury was inflicted at birth.

Bear in mind that for people who were born prior to July 2004 the two years after their 18th birthday rule applies. But those who were born after July 2004 have only until the individual turns 13 years old.

Be Wary of Changes

Recent changes as they relate to birth injury claims have resulted in high levels of uncertainty about the due date for a tort claims notice. It’s a legal ambiguity that has gone largely unaddressed as of yet in New Jersey courts, and it’s consequently often necessary to work with a trucking accident lawyer to be sure of the rules.

For cases of wrongful death, the action must be taken no more than two years after the date of the fatality. This also applies to any associated pain and suffering claims that occurred prior to the individual’s death.

The statute of limitations for product liability lawsuits is two years after the date that the incident occurred. Slander and libel claims are required to be made within one year that the alleged slander or libel has been published.

For legal malpractice, fraud, trespass, and certain types of contract disputes, a lawsuit must be filed within six years after the offense, occurrence, or injury. However, this time period may be as much as 16 years depending on the contract claim.

Assault and battery, false imprisonment, and certain specified claims must be within two years after the incident occurred. For a toxic tort, the statute of limitations is two years.

For filing lawsuits against public entities, county, state, or municipal entities, or affiliated institutions, minors have 90 days after they turn 18. This is still excluding claims of medical malpractice that involve a childbirth injury in which case the plaintiff has only until their 13th birthday.

It is often advisable to seek professional guidance when making the critical calculation of your claim deadline to prevent legal action from being delayed. Contact RAM Law today at (732) 394-1549 for a trucking accident lawyer you can count on. The law offices of Rebenack Aronow & Mascolo, L.L.P. are more than happy to help you decipher the complicated statutes of limitations for minors in New Jersey.

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To schedule a confidential consultation, contact us online or call our offices, in New Brunswick at (732) 247-3600, in Somerville at (908) 448-2560, or in Freehold at (732) 828-2234.

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