West Virginia Statute of Limitations — How to Protect Your Legal Rights

Clock and Lady Justice counting down the statute of limitation for West Virginia claims

What is the West Virginia Statute of Limitations?

The West Virginia statute of limitations is a law that determines the maximum amount of time or deadline you have to start legal proceedings after an event occurs. For example, if you were injured in a car accident, the date of your crash starts the clock ticking on the amount of time you have to file a claim.

For civil cases, including contract disputes, debts, medical malpractice, and personal injury claims, the most important thing to understand about the WV statute of limitations is that you must settle your claim or file it in a West Virginia court before the statute of limitations’ time limit expires. If you don’t, you will likely lose your legal rights to that claim forever. See below for specific deadlines and narrow exceptions to the statutes of limitations in West Virginia. 

Summary of the Different Statute of Limitations in West Virginia

Hour glass symbolizing the deadlines imposed by the West Virginia statute of limitations.

How long you have to sue someone in West Virginia depends on what type of case you have. Below is a breakdown of the statute of limitations in West Virginia for most civil actions, including various personal injury claims. Laws change, and there are exceptions to most rules, including the statute of limitations. Therefore, speaking with an attorney experienced in winning cases like yours is the best way to ensure you know the exact statute of limitations for your case. At West Law Firm, we offer Free Case Evaluations for all personal injury claims.

West Virginia Statute of Limitations: Important Deadlines at a Glance

Understanding West Virginia’s Personal Injury Statute of Limitations

The West Virginia statute of limitations for personal injury claims like dog bites, slip and falls, and trucking accidents is generally two years after the date of injury. Therefore, the best way to protect your legal rights is to file a lawsuit within two years after you were injured. However, there are exceptions to West Virginia’s two-year statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits. So, if you think you missed this deadline, it’s best to speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer to see if you fit into one of the exceptions.

The WV statute of limitations doesn’t require you to have resolved your case within the set time limits; it only requires that you file your lawsuit within the allotted time frame.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a West Virginia auto accident, workplace accident, or hurt by negligence, we invite you to call West Law Firm for a Free Consultation at 1-877-943-9378 (WEST).

The Discovery Rule and Other Exceptions to West Virginia’s Personal Injury Statutes of Limitations

daughter lights candle after father suffers wrongful death in West Virginia

As mentioned above, usually the 2-year limitations period for personal injury cases begins to run on the date the incident that caused the injury occurs. However, under the Discovery Rule, in certain cases, the clock doesn’t start to tick on the statute of limitations until the injured party knows, or through the exercise of reasonable diligence should know, that he or she is injured because of someone else’s negligence. For example, if someone gets asbestos mesothelioma 20 years after they worked at a plant where they were exposed to asbestos, the statute of limitations would likely start when they received a mesothelioma diagnosis. 

Wrongful death lawsuits are similar to personal injury claims in that the statute of limitations is 2 years, and the limitations period begins when the decedent’s representative knows, or by the exercise of reasonable diligence should know, that:

  • The decedent has died;
  • The death was the result of a wrongful act, neglect, or default

West Virginia’s discovery rule as it applies to the statute of limitations is complicated and should be discussed with a lawyer experienced in handling cases similar to yours.

Protecting the Rights of Minors: Special Statute of Limitations Considerations

a child in rehabbing in physical therapy after a car accident

West Virginia law protects minors (individuals under the age of 18) and recognizes they may not have the ability to fully understand their legal rights or pursue legal action on their own. To ensure fairness, the West Virginia statute of limitations often works differently in cases involving minors:

  • The Clock Often Starts Later: In many cases, the time limit for a minor to file a lawsuit doesn’t start running until they turn 18. This allows them to take action as adults, even if the original event occurred years earlier.
  • Exceptions for Medical Malpractice: West Virginia has specific rules for medical malpractice cases involving minors. The time limits are shorter, so it’s especially crucial to seek legal counsel quickly if you suspect medical negligence harmed a child.
  • Sexual Assault or Abuse: It probably seems unfair that there are any time limits at all on such heinous acts like the sexual abuse or assault of a minor. There are limits, though, but fortunately they are much longer than for other claims.

Important Note: The laws governing statutes of limitations for minors can be complex. If a child has been injured, or you believe their rights have been violated, it’s vital to consult with an attorney as soon as possible. An experienced legal professional can explain how the law applies to your specific situation and help protect the minor’s interests.

West Virginia Medical Malpractice Claim Time Limits

WV Medical Malpractice Icons

The West Virginia Statute of Limitations for medical malpractice and nursing home neglect cases provide additional rules.  As noted above, the general statute of limitations for medical malpractice in West Virginia is 2 years from the date of the injury, or 2 years from the date the injury is discovered or should have been discovered.  West Virginia law, however, also has a “statute of repose,” which says that a claim cannot be made more than 10 years from the time of the malpractice.  Accordingly, no matter how serious the medical error, the lawsuit is time-barred 10 years after the medical injury.

The statute of limitations clock may be paused, or “tolled,” for medical malpractice cases when the defendant health care provider has committed fraud or collusion by concealing or misrepresenting facts about the injury.

What’s the Purpose of Statutes of Limitations?

It might seem unfair that there are time limits on how long you have to file a claim in a West Virginia court. If you’ve been injured, or if someone has broken a contract with you, a deadline for seeking justice might even seem harsh. Understanding the purpose of statutes of limitations can help you better protect your rights.

  • Preserving Fairness: As time passes, it becomes harder to gather reliable evidence. Memories fade, witnesses become difficult to find, and, like all things, physical evidence deteriorates. Statutes of limitations exist to prevent people from being unfairly surprised by lawsuits about events from the distant past, ensuring a fairer process for all involved.
  • Seeking Resolution: Statutes of limitations encourage people to address situations promptly. This promotes resolving disputes quickly and efficiently rather than allowing them to linger indefinitely. While time limits are necessary, it’s equally important for those who have been wronged to seek legal advice from an attorney early to make sure they don’t miss important deadlines.
  • Compassion within West Virginia Law: Statutes of limitations acknowledge that life brings challenges and sometimes, circumstances beyond our control can delay taking legal action. The law often includes exceptions and extensions in cases where a person couldn’t reasonably have acted earlier, such as in cases of delayed discovery of an injury mentioned above.

Free Consultation with an Experienced West Virginia Personal Injury Lawyer

The personal injury lawyers of West Law Firm standing outside the WV Capitol

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, hurt by negligence, or treated unfairly by your home or auto insurance company, we invite you to call one of our top-rated West Virginia personal injury lawyers for a Free Consultation. Our toll-free number is 1-877-943-9378 (WEST). West Law Firm also never charges a fee unless and until we recover compensation for you.

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