West Virginia Statute of Limitations — How to Protect Your Rights
What is West Virginia’s Statute of Limitations?
The West Virginia statute of limitations is a law that determines the maximum amount of time you have to initiate legal proceedings against an alleged wrongdoer. That time is calculated from the date of the alleged offense, negligent act, or omission. The WV statute of limitations applies to civil and criminal cases, with different time limits for different case types.
For civil cases, including contract claims, debts, and personal injury claims, the most important thing to understand about the WV statute of limitations is that you must file your claim before the statute’s time limit expires or lose your legal rights to that claim forever.
Understanding West Virginia’s Personal Injury Statute of Limitations
The West Virginia statute of limitations for personal injury claims 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. There are exceptions to West Virginia’s two years statute of limitations for West Virginia personal injury lawsuits, however. So, if you think you may have missed this deadline, it’s essential 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 accident or hurt by negligence, we invite you to call us for a Free Consultation at 1-877-943-9378 (WEST).
How Long Do You Have to File a Lawsuit in West Virginia For Each Case Type?
How long you have to file a lawsuit in West Virginia depends on what type of case you have. The West Virginia statute of limitation applies to almost all cases, from car accidents to wrongful death claims. Below is a breakdown of the statute of limitations in West Virginia for general personal injury claims and most other types of civil actions. The clock generally starts ticking from the date of your injury or loss. Warning: Below is a general overview of the statute of limitations for different claims in West Virginia, but laws change frequently, and the facts of every case are different. So, it’s essential to ask an experienced attorney to determine your exact time limit to file a claim.
- WV Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Claims (most accidents): Generally, a lawsuit must be filed within two years of the injury. (W. Va. Code § 55-2-12)
- Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations in WV: A lawsuit must be filed within two years after the wrongful death (W. Va. Code § 55-7-6)
- Medical Malpractice: Generally, the statute of limitations is Two years after the date of injury. However, if the discovery rule applies, no more than 10 years after the date of the alleged medical negligence. (W. Va. Code § 55-7B-4)
- Nursing Home Abuse and Negligence Statute of Limitations: Generally, the statute of limitation for WV nursing home neglect cases is One year after the date of injury. However, if the discovery rule applies, no more than 10 years after the date of the alleged medical negligence. (W. Va. Code § 55-7B-4)
- Work Injury Claims (Deliberate Intent Lawsuit): The statute of limitations for civil claims involving workplace injuries in West Virginia is generally two years. For workers’ compensation claims, the statute of limitations is more complex and should be discussed with a workers’ compensation lawyer.
- Tractor Trailer and Commercial Trucking Accidents: Like with other personal injury claims, a lawsuit must be filed within two years of the injury. (W. Va. Code § 55-2-12)
- Sexual Assault or Sexual Abuse Statute of Limitations in WV: West Virginia Code Section 55-2-15 says, within 18 years after reaching the age of majority, or within four years after the discovery of the sexual assault or sexual abuse, whichever is longer.” In other words, if someone was molested when they are 14, they have 18 years after they turn 18 years old to file a lawsuit for sexual abuse in West Virginia.
- Legal and Professional Malpractice: two years for claims based in tort (W. Va. Code § 55-2-12)
- Products Liability: two years (W. Va. Code § 55-2-12)
- Damage to Property: two years (W. Va. Code § 55-2-12)
- Fraud: two years (W. Va. Code § 55-2-12)
- Breach of Contract: 5 or 10 years, depending on the type of contract (W. Va. Code § 55-2-6)
- Invasion of Privacy and Defamation: two years (W. Va. Code § 55-2-12)
Exceptions and Extensions to West Virginia’s Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Statutes of Limitations
As mentioned above, the 2-year limitations period for personal injury cases begins to run when the cause of action arises. 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, the statute of limitations would likely start when they received a mesothelioma diagnosis.
Wrongful death is similar to personal injury 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
The WV Statute of Limitations is Different for Children
There are special rules regarding the statute of limitations for minors. For personal injury claims, the statute of limitations generally does not go into effect until the minor has reached the age of 18. So if a 16-year-old is seriously injured in a tractor-trailer crash, the statute of limitations begins at age 18 and runs until he or she is 20 years old.
With regard to medical malpractice cases, if a child receives a medical injury when he or she is younger than 8 years old, the claim must be made prior to the child’s 10th birthday. For a child older than 8, the claim must be filed within 2 years of the injury.
West Virginia Medical Malpractice Claim Time Limits
The rules concerning medical malpractice and nursing home injuries require a little more detail. 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 after 10 years.
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.
Why Does West Virginia Law Put Time Limits on When You Can File a Claim?
It may seem unfair that a person who has been wronged in some way may lose the opportunity to get justice simply because time has elapsed. However, there are strong policy reasons for the existence of a statute of limitations. The purpose of a statute of limitations is threefold:
It forces the plaintiff, the party bringing the claim, to be diligent in bringing the legal action within a reasonable amount of time.
It keeps the defendant, the party accused of wrongdoing, from indefinitely having the cloud of a lawsuit hanging over his or her head. At a specified time, a defendant can be secure in knowing they are no longer exposed to potential liability.
Also, over time memories fade, and evidence is lost. Thus, the older a claim is, the more difficult it is to prove and the more difficult it is to fairly defend against.
Free Consultation with an Experienced West Virginia Personal Injury Lawyer
For more information about the West Virginia Statutes of Limitations and how they may apply to your personal injury case, we invite you to call one of our experienced Charleston, WV accident and 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.