All personal injury claims filed in Tennessee are subject to the state’s statute of limitations. The statute of limitations is a law which limits the amount of time one can wait before filing a legal claim. In Tennessee, all personal injury claims must be filed within one year of the date on which the action accrued. For example, when a person gets in a car accident and suffers an injury, the one-year statute of limitation commences on the date of the car accident. If the injured person does not file a legal claim within the one-year period then that person loses the right to file a legal claim involving the car accident.
In most cases, the cause of action accrues at the time of the injury; however, there are several legal doctrines that effectively extend the statute of limitations in specific situations. For example, where the injury is caused by a product, Tennessee law clarifies that the “cause of action for injury to the person shall accrue on the date of the personal injury, not the date of the negligence or the sale of a product.”
There are two other common situations in which the statute of limitations does not begin to run at the time of the injury. The first situation is where the person injured is a minor under the age of 18. The second situation is where the person injured is of unsound mind. In both situations, the injured party must be either a minor or incompetent at the time the injury occurred. Where this is the case, the statute of limitations will not begin to run until the party reaches the age of 18 or is deemed competent by the court. This is referred to as “tolling the statute of limitations.”
In some situations, the time at which the injury occurred may be unclear, which is known as a latent injury. Latent injuries are injuries that develop gradually over time, making the statute of limitations difficult to apply. One example of a latent injury is if a doctor negligently performs surgery, but the injury from the surgery does not occur for months or years after the surgery. For cases involving latent injuries, Tennessee follows a rule known as the Discovery Rule. Under the Discovery Rule, the statute of limitations will not begin to run on an injured party’s claim until the date on which that party either knew, or should have known of the injury. Where there is disagreement between the parties to a lawsuit, a judge will decide whether or not the legal claim was filed within the statute of limitations. It is important to remember that the Discovery Rule prevents a plaintiff from unreasonably delaying in filing a personal injury lawsuit by imposing reasonable diligence on the plaintiff to discover the injury.