Many people may be unaware of what the term “statute of limitations” means. The problem may be that it has different meanings for different actions and claims. A statute of limitations is essentially a time period or deadline for when a case can be filed. It gives a certain amount of time for an injured party to file a claim before they are legally prevented from doing so. This serves a couple purposes. First of all, statutes of limitations allow potential defendants some peace of mind. After a statute has run, they are not surprised by something that happened 10 or 20 or 50 years earlier, maybe before the current party took over. Statutes of limitations also facilitate judicial economy. The courts are not clogged with old cases where evidence and witnesses may never be found. That means there are fewer cases in the system.
So what are the statutes limitations in Missouri?
Personal Injury (including premises liability): 5 years if the claim is based on negligence
2 years if based on an intentional tort like battery or assault
Fraud: 10 years
Libel/Slander (defamation): 2 years
Products Liability: 5 years
Professional Malpractice: 2 years*
Wrongful Death: 3 years
When do these time periods begin running? In Missouri, it is when the injury suffered by the party is “capable of ascertaining the injury”. That means if your attorney messed up a settlement structure for you and you don’t realize that until 5 years after the settlement, you may be entitled to an additional 2 years from the date you first recognized something was wrong. However, in a personal injury situation, the time starts from the day you were in the accident or suffered the injury.
Some of this may seem murky, especially when it comes to professional malpractice. That is why an experienced attorney is needed for advice. They can guide you through these dates and deadlines. They can help you pinpoint the starting date.
*In medical malpractice cases, under Mo. Rev. Stat. 516.105, the claim must be brought within 2 years of the date of the act of negligence except when a foreign object or surgery tool is left in the body, when a failure to diagnose is claimed or when the person injured is under 18. In the first two cases, the time period of 2 years begins to run when the person, by using ordinary care, should have discovered the foreign object or the failed diagnosis. For an individual under the age of 18, the minor has until his/her twentieth birthday or 10 years, whichever is later. If you have any questions about statutes of limitations or your potential case, feel free to call us. We can help.