If you've been injured as a passenger in an Uber or Lyft vehicle, it's important to understand that there are deadlines for filing an injury-related civil lawsuit in court. But what if your injuries didn't show up right away? And is there a different lawsuit-filing deadline depending on the type of incident (i.e. traffic accident or intentional assault) that led to your harm?
Let's look at the laws that determine the amount of time you have to get an Uber/Lyft passenger injury case filed, and a few key issues to keep in mind.
In every state, laws called "statutes of limitations" set a limit on how much time can pass before you must get a lawsuit filed in court. Different deadlines apply to different kinds of cases, but the impact of failing to comply with the time limit is the same: miss the deadline and you've lost your right to sue and get compensation for your losses (known as "damages"). But while these deadlines are strictly-enforced, every state has carved out exceptions that can extend the filing deadline. (More on these exceptions later).
A personal injury lawsuit seeking compensation for injuries suffered in an Uber or Lyft vehicle will almost always rely on one of two legal arguments to try to hold the driver or some third party (perhaps even the rideshare company itself) legally responsible:
In many states, the applicable statute of limitations filing deadline will be the same whether you're claiming that your injuries were caused by negligent or intentional conduct. In California, for example, you'd have two years to file a lawsuit over injuries suffered in either kind of situation. But in New York, you'd have only one year to file a lawsuit over injuries suffered in an assault incident in a rideshare vehicle, and a full three years to file a case over injuries resulting from a vehicle accident.
Remember that every state has its own rules for when you must get a lawsuit filed (or lose your right to file it at all) which is one of many reasons why consulting a lawyer is so important.
In some kinds of injury cases, the statute of limitations "clock" might not necessarily start running on the date of the accident or incident that led to the plaintiff's harm. Instead, under the "discovery rule," the clock might start only when the plaintiff discovers (or should reasonably have discovered) having been harmed. Or the relevant discovery rule could simply provide that the clock starts on the date the person was diagnosed with or started experiencing symptoms of an injury caused by the underlying incident. How might this work in a rideshare passenger's injury case?
Let's say you were involved in a traffic accident as a rideshare passenger on May 1, 2019, but you didn't begin experiencing any discomfort from the accident until June 10, 2019. That kind of delay between an accident and indications of injury is rare, but under the discovery rule, the statute of limitations "clock" might not start running until June 10, 2019.
As with most injury cases, it's important to get medical treatment as soon as possible after a rideshare vehicle accident.
Other special situations could also act to effectively extend the filing deadline in lawsuit over passenger injuries. For example, if the injured person was a minor when the accident or incident occurred, the statute of limitations "clock" might not begin to run until the claimant turns eighteen.
If you're confused about which statute of limitations applies to your Uber/Lyft passenger injury case, and whether you might be entitled to an extension of any filing deadline that's looming (or has already passed), don't worry. It's not your job to understand complex rules like these, let alone figure out how they might affect your case. An attorney will be familiar with the statute of limitations deadline in your state, and can craft a strategy for protecting your rights.
For more information, read about finding the right lawyer for you and your rideshare passenger injury case. and making the most of the attorney-client relationship.