What is the Personal Injury Statute of Limitations in Texas?

Wondering how long you have to file a Texas personal injury lawsuit? We'll explain. Also, learn when the filing time can be extended, and what happens to your case if you miss the deadline.

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

One of the first questions a personal injury client often asks their lawyer is: "How much time do I have to sue?" The answer can be found in "statutes of limitations," laws that put a deadline on your time to file a lawsuit in court. In the simplest terms, a statute of limitations has one job: To kill legal claims. It does that job very effectively.

Texas has several statutes of limitations that apply to different personal injury claims. Beginning with the state's two-year general rule, we'll review those you're most likely to encounter. Occasionally, Texas law extends the time you have to sue. We explain when that might happen. Finally, you might be here because you fear your time to sue has run out and you're looking for options. We'll tell you what you need to know.

Texas' General Rule: Two Years to File a Personal Injury Lawsuit

In most Texas personal injury cases, you have two years to file a lawsuit in court. (Tex. Civ. Pract. & Proc. Code § 16.003 (2024).) The statute of limitations clock normally starts running on the date you're injured. In some circumstances—as we discuss below—you might get more time.

This two-year rule applies to personal injury lawsuits involving:

Other Texas Personal Injury Statutes of Limitations

Texas' two-year general rule isn't a one-size-fits-all limitation period. Other statutes of limitations cover specific kinds of personal injury claims. Here are two common examples.


When someone makes a false statement of fact about you that harms your reputation within the community, the law calls it "defamation." Tex. Civ. Pract. & Proc. Code § 16.002(a) (2024) allows you just one year to sue for libel (written defamation) or slander (spoken defamation). Typically, your filing time runs from the date the defamatory statement is made.

Medical Malpractice

Lots of special rules apply in medical malpractice cases. The statute of limitations—found at Tex. Civ. Pract. & Proc. Code § 74.251(a) (2024)—is one of them. When you're injured by a health care provider, you must file suit within two years from the later of:

  • the date of the malpractice, or
  • the date the course of treatment that included the malpractice is complete.

A different deadline applies when a young child is the injured patient.

(Learn more about Texas medical malpractice laws, including the statute of limitations.)

Can the Texas Personal Injury Filing Deadline Be Extended?

In some situations, yes. Texas law recognizes a handful of situations that delay the start of the statute of limitations, or "toll" (pause) the clock after it has started to run. These are some examples.

The Discovery Rule

Most times, the statute of limitations clock starts running on the date you're injured. In the typical personal injury case, this isn't a problem. If you break your ankle in a slip-and-fall accident or a car wreck, the pain and other symptoms let you know right away you've been hurt. There's nothing unfair about starting the statute of limitations that day.

But what if you don't discover your injury when it happens? Suppose, for instance, that you're exposed to a pesticide that, over a period of several years, causes you to develop cancer. You won't know you're being injured until, at some point years down the road, you get the cancer diagnosis.

The "discovery rule" is meant to address just such a situation. When you don't know you've been injured, and you couldn't discover it even if you were being reasonably diligent, the statute of limitations doesn't begin running on the date you were hurt. Instead, it starts on the earlier of the date:

  • you discover your injury and what caused it, or
  • you should have discovered your injury and what caused it, had you been careful to look for signs and symptoms.

(See Schlumberger Technology Corp. v. Pasko, 544 S.W.3d 834, 834 (Tex. 2018).)

If you think the discovery rule might give you more time to file your case, note these important caveats.

The rule doesn't apply in all cases. The Texas Supreme Court has made clear that the discovery rule is an exception to the normal statutes of limitations, one that's to be sparingly applied. (See Berry v. Berry, 646 S.W.3d 516, 524 (Tex. 2022).) It will be up to you to prove you're entitled to more time. Expect the defendant (the party you're suing) to put up a real fight. You'll need experienced legal counsel to represent you and make your arguments to the court.

You don't have unlimited time to discover your injury. Even in cases when the discovery rule applies, it won't give you unlimited time to find out what happened. Texas has other deadlines called "statutes of repose." These deadlines run regardless of when (or if) you discover your injury. For example, in a medical malpractice case, the statute of repose says the latest you can sue is 10 years from the date of the malpractice. (Tex. Civ. Pract. & Proc. Code § 74.251(b) (2024).)

Defendant Is Absent From Texas

The statute of limitations doesn't run for any period that the defendant is absent from Texas. (Tex. Civ. Pract. & Proc. Code § 16.063 (2024).) But for this extension to apply, the defendant's absence must prevent you from suing them. Ask your lawyer if you can get "service of process" on the out-of-state defendant. If the answer is yes, this exception probably does you no good. (See Ashley v. Hawkins, 275 S.W.3d 175, 179 (Tex. 2009).)

Injured Person Is Legally Disabled

In the eyes of the law, a person who's legally disabled can't manage their own legal affairs without help, usually from a parent or legal guardian. Texas law recognizes as legally disabled:

  • those younger than 18 years old, and
  • persons who are of "unsound mind."

When a legally disabled person is injured in Texas, the statute of limitations doesn't start running until the disability ends. Note that the legal disability must predate the injury. In other words, this extension doesn't apply when a person who's injured later becomes legally disabled.

(Tex. Civ. Pract. & Proc. Code § 16.001 (2024).)

What If I Miss the Texas Lawsuit Filing Deadline?

Worried that you might have missed the deadline to file your Texas personal injury lawsuit, or that the time to file is about to expire? Don't panic. You should immediately contact a Texas personal injury lawyer. Here's what you need to know:

  • what the statute of limitations is for your case
  • whether the time to file a lawsuit has passed, or is about to expire, and
  • if you're out of time, or about to be out of time, whether an extension might allow you more time to sue.

Now for the bad news. If the statute of limitations has run out and you can't take advantage of any extension, then your personal injury claim is dead. Nothing you do will bring it back to life. Try to file a lawsuit and the defendant will—at the very least—ask the court to dismiss it as untimely. The court will have no choice but to grant that request, no matter how serious, permanent, or disabling your injuries might be. The defendant also might ask the court to sanction (penalize) you for filing a frivolous case.

Don't expect a better outcome if you're trying to negotiate a settlement of your case without having filed a lawsuit. Once the defendant's insurance company or lawyer figures out the filing deadline has passed—and they will, at some point before they write you a check—all your negotiating leverage disappears. Without the threat of a lawsuit, you have no way to force them to pay you. And you can bet they're not going to pay you anything voluntarily.

Get Help With Your Statute of Limitations Issues

Trying to navigate around statute of limitations issues on your own is a bit like trying to cross a minefield while blindfolded. A mistake can be disastrous, and you won't know you've erred until its too late. There's no reason to go it alone. An experienced Texas personal injury attorney knows the state's filing deadlines and how they apply to your case.

When you're ready to move forward, here's how you can find a lawyer near you. Time is the enemy of your case, so don't delay.

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