What is the Personal Injury Statute of Limitations in Minnesota?

Minnesota's personal injury statutes of limitations set strictly-enforced time limits on your legal right to have an injury claim heard in the state's civil court system.

By , J.D. · University of San Francisco School of Law
Updated by Charles Crain, Attorney · UC Berkeley School of Law

If you've been involved in a slip-and-fall, a car accident, or any other incident where someone else's conduct caused you harm, you may want to seek compensation by pursuing a personal injury case. If you're considering filing a lawsuit in Minnesota court, it's crucial to understand and comply with the state's statute of limitations. Statutes of limitations set strict deadlines on your right to file a lawsuit in court. You can preserve your legal rights--and your bargaining position for an out-of-court settlement--by knowing how Minnesota's rules apply to you.

Minnesota's Two-Year Deadline for Personal Injury Lawsuits

Minnesota law uses a two-year statute of limitations for civil lawsuit arising from "libel, slander, assault, battery, false imprisonment, or other tort resulting in personal injury."

This two-year deadline applies to:

  • cases driven by the liability principles of negligence, which apply to claims filed after a car accident, slip and fall incident, and other mishaps; and
  • lawsuits over so-called "intentional torts" like defamation and assault.

With rare exceptions (which we'll discuss below) you must begin your case by filing the complaint and serving the defendant before this two-year deadline expires.

Minn. Stat. § 541.07 (2023).

Minnesota's Personal Injury Filing Deadline: When the Clock Starts Ticking

In many states, the deadline for filing a personal injury lawsuit is measured from the date a person realizes (or should have realized) that they were injured and that the defendant is responsible.

Minnesota uses a different rule that places more responsibility on potential plaintiffs in personal injury cases. Under the state's "some damage" rule, the statute of limitations starts to run when a person knows that they've suffered an injury that gives them the right to sue. It doesn't matter if they don't yet know who caused their injuries.

The difference between these rules generally won't matter in a typical personal injury case where, for example, a plaintiff has been hurt in a fall or a car accident. In cases like that the victim usually knows immediately (or very soon after the accident) that they've been injured, and the identity of the person or business they think is responsible.

But if someone is injured by medical malpractice, or by exposure to toxic chemicals, it can sometimes take months or years even years for physical symptoms to develop. In these types of cases, the difference between Minnesota's "some damage" rule and the discovery rule could be crucial.

Consider a case where a building contractor begins suffering from a cough and shortness of breath, and is diagnosed with an asbestos-related respiratory condition. They've worked for many employers and on many job sites over the years, and aren't sure where they might have been exposed to asbestos.

The discovery rule would take into account that the contractor (or their attorney) might have to spend time investigating the case to identify the people or businesses responsible for their injuries. Under the "some damage" rule, though, the contractor's deadline for filing a lawsuit would be measured from the date they were diagnosed with a health problem related to asbestos exposure.

(Palmer v. Walker Jamar Co., 945 N.W.2d 844 (Minn. 2020).)

The Consequences of Missing the Filing Deadline

If the two-year deadline has passed, but you try to file your personal injury lawsuit anyway, it will almost certainly be dismissed. This dismissal will happen before a judge even considers the strength of your case--you cannot get extra time by pointing out that you've suffered very serious injuries or financial losses, or that the defendant is clearly responsible.

Unless your case fits into one of the very rare exceptions we discuss below, once you miss the standard two-year deadline you lose your right to ever seek a legal remedy for the harms you've suffered. That means you cannot receive financial compensation ("damages," in legal terms) for your losses.

Minnesota's personal injury statute of limitations is obviously a key consideration if you want to take your case to court. But the statutory filing deadline is also crucial to your position in personal injury settlement negotiations. If you wait until the filing deadline is looming to pursue a settlement, you risk not giving yourself enough time to reach an acceptable agreement. And, once the filing deadline passes, you'll have no legal leverage to convince the responsible person (or their insurance company) to negotiate at all.

When Minnesota's Personal Injury Filing Deadline Can Be Extended

You're always better off filing your case within Minnesota's standard two-year window. But there are certain situations where Minnesota law recognizes that it would unreasonable to hold plaintiffs to this deadline.

For example, if a person is injured when they're under 18, or while they're incapacitated by mental illness, they will not be subject to the two-year filing deadline. Instead, they must file any lawsuit within one year of turning 18 or regaining their mental competence. (Keep in mind that, if a plaintiff is mentally ill, the deadline will not be extended more than five years even if they do not recover within that time.)

A plaintiff can also get more time to file their lawsuit if the person responsible for their injuries is not in Minnesota. If someone does not reside in the state, it can be difficult or even impossible to find them and and serve them with the paperwork to start a lawsuit. So Minnesota law will often subtract the time a defendant is out of state when calculating the statute of limitations deadline. Keep in mind, though, that this additional time is not granted automatically. A plaintiff has to be able to show that they did their best to locate the defendant and start the lawsuit, but were unable to do so.

Minnesota law also prevents potential defendants from gaining an advantage by hiding their liability for a victim's injuries. If a defendant has engaged in this kind of "fraudulent concealment" (either by hiding the harm itself, or hiding their legal responsibility) the filing deadline will be measured from the date the victim discovered the fraud.

(Minn. Stat. § 541.13 (2023); Minn. Stat. § 541.15 (2023); DeCosse v. Armstrong Cork Co., 319 N.W.2d 45 (Minn. 1982).)

Learn More About Minnesota's Personal Injury Statute of Limitations

In some situations it can make sense to handle your own personal injury claim. For example, Minnesota's Conciliation Court is set up to make it easier for people represent themselves when they have straightforward cases and have not suffered serious injuries or financial losses.

But if you're concerned about being able to file your lawsuit in time--and especially if you have to argue that the usual two-year deadline should not apply--you will almost certainly want to consult a personal injury attorney. A Minnesota lawyer with experience handling cases like yours should be able to navigate the state laws and court rules that apply to your lawsuit. And, even if the filing deadline is not on the horizon, you could benefit from having an attorney moving your case along and representing your interests as you seek an out-of-court solution.

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