If you have been injured or a loved one was killed in a Missouri car accident, you are likely considering filing a personal injury lawsuit. While an attorney may be able to help you recover damages for your medical bills, lost income, or costs of future care, filing a lawsuit is a time-sensitive undertaking.
The Statute of Limitations
Missouri, like every state in the country, does not give people an unlimited amount of time to file a claim for accident-related injuries. Instead, the Missouri Code sets a strict deadline on when accident-related lawsuits can be filed. This deadline is called a statute of limitations. Once the statute of limitations has passed, you cannot take another motorist to court—even if you have been badly injured or desperately need to recover damages.
Under Section 516.120 of the Missouri Code, people have five years after the death or injury to seek legal remedies for any “injury to the person.” This includes most car accidents.
What Happens If You Miss the Filing Deadline
If you try to file a lawsuit after the statute of limitations has expired, the court may still hear your case—however, the other motorist or their attorney will almost certainly note how much time has passed and ask that your case be dismissed. And most of the time, the court will grant their request.
The only exceptions to the statute of limitations’ five-year timeline are as follows:
- If someone was under the age of 21 at the time of an accident, then they have an additional five years to file a lawsuit after they have turned 21.
- If someone became mentally incapacitated after the injury, they can file a lawsuit five years past the date at which they were declared mentally competent.
- If the at-fault motorist leaves Missouri, the time they spend outside the state may be exempted from the statute of limitations’ five-year deadline.