The direct answer to the above question is two years. Arizona’s statute of limitations specifically states that a person is bound by a two-year time limit to file for damages resulting from injuries caused by another person or entity. Whether the acts of the person or entity causing the injury are defined as negligent or as intentional, the two-year time limit remains. Arizona Revised Statutes section 12-542.
If a case is not brought by an injured party within this time limit, then, most likely, the case will be summarily dismissed.
The paragraphs above speak only to the definition—not to the exceptions. In law, there are exceptions to nearly every rule, procedure and statute. This blog will discuss the importance of acting within the statute of limitations and the specific exceptions to extend the two-year limit.
The Filing Deadline
The intent of the statute of limitations is to hold all persons to the two-year time period to make injury claims known to the court and to seek recovery for damages. The actions within this time period are decisive to proving a claim. The longer one waits to file a personal injury claim, the harder is becomes to prove the extent of damages. The closer it gets to the expiration of the time period, the weaker the leverage becomes in any settlement negotiation.
The statute of limitations is pivotal to the positions taken by the parties on both sides of the case. The attorneys representing the party responsible for the injury will be noting the expiration of the two-year period as will the attorneys representing the injured party.
If a case is dismissed because the statute of limitations has passed, the right to seek damages is lost, or barred, regardless of the extent of the injuries or the clear evidence of fault.
As stated above, there are exceptions to nearly every rule and statute. The exceptions listed and discussed below are contained within the statutes. These exceptions are recognized as valid.
- Discovery Rule
This is the most common exception to the two-year rule under the statute of limitations. This rule holds to the benefit of the injured party. Often, injuries do not have known or obvious symptoms. Sometimes, the injuries surface after the two-year period applied to personal injury claims.
If the injured party went to a doctor within a reasonable time after the accident and no injuries were diagnosed, then the statute of limitations will likely be suspended until the injuries became symptomatic and known. For this exception to apply and be granted, the injured party will need to prove that reasonable actions were taken within a reasonable time to discover an injury.
- Claims by Minor or by those Ruled Incompetent
Injuries can happen to anyone, and every injured person has the right to recover damages resulting from an accident. However, the injured person needs to be deemed competent to present and defend their position. In Arizona, courts do not recognize the competency of a minor or those ruled incompetent due to illness, injury or mental capacity. Under these circumstances, the statute of limitations will not affect a minor or an incompetent person until capacity is restored. Arizona Revised Statutes section 12-502.
The two-year period will not begin at the time of injury; rather, the period will begin when a minor reaches the age of majority or when the condition causing the incompetency is lifted.
- Responsible Party Leaves Arizona
If the person responsible for the accident leaves the State of Arizona prior to the case being filed, then the two-year period is suspended until this person returns to be properly and legally served. The time period will stop when the responsible party leaves the State and will resume when the party returns. Any time remaining within the two-year period will not be lost. Arizona Revised Statutes section 12-501.
Even though the wording of Arizona’s Statute of Limitations is hard and fast as to the two-year time limit, the State does recognize the reasonableness of the exceptions explained above.
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