Statute of Limitations: What It Is and Why It Is Important

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Many people have heard the term “statute of limitations,” but do not quite know what it means or why it is important. They are generally aware that it is a legal term, but for many, that is the extent of their understanding. For lawyers and their clients alike, the statute of limitations is important because it governs the time frame with which the parties have to take certain actions. By definition, the statute of limitations refers to the amount of time an injured party has to file a lawsuit following their injury. If a case has not been settled by the expiration of the statute of limitations or a lawsuit filed, the claimant loses their right, by law, to recover compensation for their injuries. Their claim is time-barred.
This article will focus on statutes of limitation for many types of Wisconsin personal injury cases. Each state has its own rules regarding statute of limitations, and the time frames vary by state.
In general, the statute of limitations for a personal injury case in Wisconsin is three years. This means that in order to preserve the right to continue pursuing a personal injury claim after the statute of limitations has expired, a lawsuit must be filed before the three-year anniversary of the injury. As with most rules, there are exceptions depending upon what type of claim is being made, when the injury occurred, etc. This article will dissect some of those nuances and identify the statute of limitations for various types of personal injury claims that are often made in Wisconsin.
Wisconsin Statute § 893.54 outlines the general rule for the statute of limitations in Wisconsin for “Injury to the person.” It states as follows:
(1m) Except as provided in sub. (2m), the following actions shall be commenced within 3 years or be barred:
(a) An action to recover damages for injuries to the person, including an action to recover damages for injuries to the person caused or sustained by or arising from an accident involving a motor vehicle.
(b) An action brought to recover damages for death caused by the wrongful act, neglect, or default of another.
(2m) An action brought to recover damages for death caused by the wrongful act, neglect, or default of another and arising from an accident involving a motor vehicle shall be commenced within 2 years after the cause of action accrues or be barred.
As mentioned previously, a case involving injuries to the person must be settled or a lawsuit filed within three years of the date of injury, or it will be time-barred. Subpart (2m) of Wis. Stat. § 893.54 provides that the statute of limitations for a wrongful death arising from a motor vehicle accident is only two years from the date of accrual. This is one of the exceptions to the three-year rule in Wisconsin. NOTE: “Date of Accrual” for a wrongful death claim has been defined by case law as the date of death.
It is also important to note that a wrongful death claim not involving a motor vehicle still falls under the general umbrella of a three-year statute of limitations.
Generally, most personal injury cases in Wisconsin fall within the three-year statute of limitation time frame set forth in Wis. Stat. § 893.54(1m). These include, but are not necessarily limited to:
• Motor Vehicle Crashes
• Premises Liability Cases (i.e. slip and fall, trip and fall)
• Dog Bites
• Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
Below is a chart* that contains a more comprehensive list of statutes of limitation in Wisconsin for specific types of cases, many of which changed with the passing of 2015 Wisconsin Act 133, which was enacted into law on February 4, 2016, and officially published on February 5, 2016.
Cause of Action Accidents Occurring BEFORE February 6, 2016 Accidents Occurring On or After February 6, 2016
Auto Property Damage 6 Years from Date of Accident 3 Years from Date of Accident
Bodily Injury Claim (NOT involving death) 3 Years from Date of Accident NO CHANGE – 3 Years from Date of Accident
Wrongful Death (involving a Motor Vehicle) 3 Years from Date of Accrual 2 Years from Date of Accrual
Uninsured Motorist Claim 6 Years from Date of Accident 3 Years from Date of Accrual
Underinsured Motorist Claim 6 Years from Date of Accident 3 Years from Date of Accrual
The statute of limitations for minors in Wisconsin is also an exception to the general rule. Minors have two years after they reach the age of majority (i.e. two years after their 18th birthday) to file a lawsuit for injuries they sustained in an accident while still a minor pursuant to Wis. Stat. § 893.16.
Claims against a government entity or employee are subject to a different rule set forth in Wis. Stat. § 893.80. For claims against government entities or employees, a written notice of the claim must be served on the proper government agency within 120 days of the accident or injury. If a claimant fails to give proper notice within the 120-day time frame, his or her claim could be barred.
While most personal injury claims are governed by a three-year statute of limitations, there are many types of claims that are subject to a different statutory time frame as well. If you or someone you know has been injured by someone else’s negligence, you do not want to risk missing an important statutory deadline. Injured parties can lose their right to recover for their injuries if they miss the statute of limitations by one day. At the Groth Law Firm, we will make sure your case is filed on time so that you do not lose your right to continue pursuing your claim for damages. Make sure to have a skilled team of attorneys on your side to ensure that all of the statutory deadlines specific to your case are met. Call the Groth Law Firm today for a free consultation!
*The information contained in this chart was taken largely from an informational chart provided by a representative of the Wisconsin Association for Justice, a plaintiffs’ trial lawyer association.

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