Arizona Statute of Limitations
One very important aspect of the law that individuals should be aware of is that lawsuits have expiration dates, or what lawyers refer to as “statute of limitations.”
A statute of limitation is a law establishing the time limit within which a lawsuit MUST be brought. What this means is the right to sue and recover damages might be forever lost if you do not file your case within a certain time frame.
Different states have different statute of limitations just as different types of cases have different statutes of limitation.
First, it is important to know what type of case you have (personal injury, medical malpractice etc.), and second, the time limit that applies to that case.
Aside from the list below, there are many other statutes of limitation in Arizona (dram shop, product liability, etc.). Please don’t hesitate to contact our attorneys at Harris Powers & Cunningham if you have any questions regarding your specific case but below are a few general guidelines to get you started:
Arizona Medical Malpractice Claim
A medical malpractice claim may be appropriate if you or a loved one was harmed because a health care professional deviated from the acceptable standard of care. In Arizona, what that means is a provider must “exercise that degree of care, skill and learning expected of a reasonable, prudent health care provider in the profession or class to which he belongs within the state acting in the same or similar circumstances” (A.R.S. § 12-563).
The statute of limitations for an alleged action of medical malpractice in Arizona is TWO YEARS. (A. R. S. § 12-542(I)). What this specifically means is the injured party must file a lawsuit within two years after the date of the injury.
What if the injury isn’t discovered right away? Great question! Typically, in Arizona the statute of limitations period does not begin to run until the plaintiff’s injuries are actually discovered, or until the date in which the plaintiff’s injuries should have reasonably been discovered. Mayer v. Good Samaritan Hospital, 14 Ariz. App. 248, 482 P.2d 497 (1971).
For example, say you are involved in a surgery where one of the medical professionals leaves an unintended piece of medical equipment in your body after they close you up. You may not know this happen or begin having problems until a few months down the road. In this case, the statute of limitations would begin once you found out about the foreign object in your body.
Arizona General Personal Injury Claim
In general, a personal injury lawsuit is a dispute that arises when one person suffers an injury that someone else might be legally responsible for (a car accident being the simplest example).
The statute of limitations in Arizona for a personal injury claim is TWO YEARS (A.R.S. § 12-542). However, if you suffer a hidden injury that you might not discover right away, your two-year time limit might start on the date you discovered the injury as opposed to the date of the accident.
Arizona Wrongful Death Claim
A wrongful death claim is a special kind of lawsuit brought when someone dies as a result of someone else’s negligence or intentional act. An action for wrongful death can be brought by the surviving spouse, child, parent or guardian, or personal representative of the deceased (A.R.S. § 12-612). The claim is meant to compensate the surviving family members for damages/losses they experienced due to the death of their loved one.
The statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim in Arizona is TWO YEARS (A.R.S. § 12-542(II)). The injured party must therefore file a lawsuit within two years after the date of decedent’s death. See, e.g., James v. Phoenix General Hospital, Inc., 154 Ariz. 594, 744 P.2d 695 (1987).
There are some exceptions to the rule if the wrongful death was not discovered right away. The statute of limitations may not start accruing until the plaintiff (decedent’s estate, loved one etc.) discovers or should have reasonably discovered that the decedent’s death was caused by defendant’s negligent conduct. Anson v. American Motors Corp., 155 Ariz. 420, 747 P.2d 581 (App. 1987).
If a minor is injured in Arizona, whether it be a medical malpractice claim, personal injury claim etc., special rules will apply regarding the statute of limitations.
Generally, the statute of limitations does not begin to run until the child reaches 18 years of age (A.R.S. § 12-502). For example, in a medical malpractice suit if the child is 16 at the time of the injury, they will have until their 20th birthday to file their claim (2 years after turning 18).
If your claim involves a public entity or public employee, it’s more important than ever to move fast! These types of claims require special attention as there are more procedural steps and technicalities than other claims.
The statute of limitations to file a claim against a public entity or public employee is only ONE YEAR after the cause of action (A.R.S. § 12-821). This statute creates a much shorter time for filing than the two year period within which claims can be filed against other defendants.
Additionally, before suit can be filed against a public entity or employee, you must first file what is called a NOTICE OF CLAIM. A notice of claim is basically an extra procedural step that a party must make to provide the public entity with notice of an upcoming lawsuit. The notice of claim must be filed within 180 DAYS after the cause of action (A.R.S. § 12-821.01). This is an extremely important step because statute states, “any claim that is not filed within one hundred eighty days after the cause of action accrues is barred and no action may be maintained thereon.”
Arizona Dog Bite Claim
While we all love our furry friends, a serious dog bite is not something to be ignored. Depending on the bite you may have extensive medical bills and permanent damage. Arizona follows a “strict liability” law when involving a dog attack or bite. What this means is that a dog’s owner is liable for any injuries and damages the dog causes and the victim does not need to prove negligence caused the attack. They only need to show the injury was caused by the dog bite (A.R.S. § 11-1025).
The statute of limitations for dog bites in Arizona is ONE YEAR. Therefore, you must bring your claim within one year from the time of the bite.
In all matters involving injury or death it is crucial that measures be taken promptly to preserve evidence and ensure a lawsuit is filed prior to the imposed deadline. You may have a valid claim and you don’t want to wait until the statute of limitations expires. Furthermore, certain situations may require additional procedural steps that are not mentioned above (example, medical malpractice that arises from treatment of a work-related injury), therefore, it is always advised to speak with a licensed attorney who can advise on your specific situation. If you or a loved one has questions about your case, please don’t hesitate to call us at 602-271-9344 for a free consultation.