What Is the Personal Injury Statute of Limitations in Indiana?

Here's how Indiana's statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits works, and why it's so important to comply with the filing deadline set by this law.

By , J.D. · University of San Francisco School of Law
Updated by Dan Ray, Attorney · University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Law

A "statute of limitations" is a law that limits your time to file a lawsuit in court. Indiana has several of them that apply to different kinds of personal injury (PI) cases. If you've been hurt by someone else's wrongdoing and you're considering a PI lawsuit, one of the first things you need to know is how long you have to sue.

We cover the basics, beginning with Indiana's two-year personal injury general rule. Some kinds of PI lawsuits have other filing deadlines, as we'll see. In limited circumstances, Indiana law extends the lawsuit-filing deadline. We'll review a few examples. Finally, we close with a look at what happens to your case if you miss the filing deadline. As you might imagine, the answer is: Nothing good.

Indiana's Personal Injury General Rule: Two Years

You'll find Indiana's personal injury general rule—the statute of limitations that applies in most cases—at Ind. Code § 34-11-2-4(a)(1) (2024). You have two years, usually from the date you're injured, to file your personal injury lawsuit in court. This rule applies to several kinds of PI suits, including those that involve:

Other Statutes of Limitations for Specific Personal Injury Cases

Indiana's general rule isn't a one-size-fits-all deadline. When a more specific statute of limitations is a better fit, that's probably the rule that applies. Here are some examples.

Medical Malpractice

When you're injured by a health care provider's wrongdoing, Ind. Code § 34-18-7-1(b) (2024) allows you two years from the date of the malpractice to sue. When a child younger than six years old is injured, the filing deadline is the child's eighth birthday.

(Find out more about Indiana's medical malpractice laws, including the statute of limitations.)

Dangerous Products

A lawsuit over an injury caused by a dangerous or defective product is called a "product liability" case. As a rule, the deadline to sue is two years from the date you were injured. (Ind. Code § 34-20-3-1(b) (2024).) A different deadline applies when your injury was caused by asbestos exposure. You still have two years to sue, but the statute of limitations clock doesn't start until the date first you knew you suffered an asbestos-related injury or illness. (Ind. Code § 34-20-3-2 (2024).)

Wrongful Death

When personal injuries cause death, the victim's survivors might file a court case to collect damages, called a "wrongful death" lawsuit. They must sue within two years from the date of death. (Ind. Code § 34-23-1-1 (2024).)

Extending the Indiana Personal Injury Statute of Limitations Deadline

In some situations, Indiana law extends the statute of limitations deadline. Ask your lawyer if the facts of your case make it a good candidate for one of these exceptions. It's your job to prove that you're entitled to an extension, and in most cases, you can expect the defendant (the party you're suing) to put up a serious fight.

The Discovery Rule

In most PI cases, the statute of limitations clock starts running once you're injured. This isn't a problem, provided that you know about your injury when it happens. But what if you don't know right away you've been hurt? You might run out of time to file your lawsuit before you even know you have a case. That's simply unfair.

Indiana has adopted the "discovery rule" to deal with that potential unfairness. When you don't know you've been injured, and there's no way you could discover it even if you were being diligent to look for signs and symptoms, the discovery rule might give you more time to sue. When the rule applies, the filing deadline doesn't begin running on the date you were injured. Instead, it runs from the earlier of:

  • the date you discover your injury, or
  • the date you should have discovered your injury, had you been reasonably careful to look for it.

(See Wehling v. Citizens Nat'l. Bank, 586 N.E.2d 840, 843 (Ind.1992).)

Other Situations When the Clock Is Delayed or Paused

The statute of limitations clock might start running later or be "tolled" (paused) when:

  • the plaintiff (the person filing a lawsuit) is injured while legally disabled from filing a lawsuit on their own (younger than 18 or mentally incapacitated) (Ind. Code § 34-11-6-1 (2024))
  • the defendant lives outside Indiana, unless there's a person or business in Indiana that can accept service of your lawsuit on the defendant's behalf (Ind. Code § 34-11-4-1 (2024)), or
  • the defendant conceals your claim from you. (Ind. Code § 34-11-5-1 (2024).)

What Happens If You Miss the Indiana Statute of Limitations Deadline?

If you think you've missed the statute of limitations deadline or you're concerned that your time to sue is about to expire, your first call should be to an Indiana personal injury lawyer. You want to know if the deadline has passed and if so, whether an extension might be available.

When you run out of time and there's no way to extend the deadline, your claim is legally dead. There's no way to bring it back to life, no matter how serious, permanent, or disabling your injuries might be. Try to file a lawsuit and the defendant will ask the court to dismiss it. The court will grant that request. To make matters worse, the defendant might ask the court to sanction (penalize) you for filing a frivolous case.

You won't do any better if you're trying to negotiate a settlement of your case without filing in court. Absent the threat of a lawsuit to back you up, you have no negotiating leverage. Neither the defendant nor their insurance company will take you or your claim seriously. You can't force them to compensate you, and they're not going to voluntarily pay you anything.

Get Help With Your Personal Injury Statute of Limitations Questions

If there's one takeaway from this article, here it is: You don't want to tackle a statute of limitations problem alone. The statute of limitations is a claim killer. Even the smallest mistake—being off by just one day—can be devastating. The risk is so great that many lawyers who don't regularly file lawsuits won't give advice about case filing deadlines.

Don't take needless chances. Find an experienced Indiana personal injury lawyer near you. And don't delay. Time is the enemy of your case.

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