Hawaii is known primarily as a vacation and tourism destination. However, even though most tourists visit this state without incidence, some are involved in serious accidents. These accidents may result in a minor injury, or they may cause injuries severe enough to affect the victim for the rest of his or her life.
If you or a loved one sustains an injury because an individual or organization in Hawaii was negligent, you can often file a legal claim against the responsible party. If you win the case, the court may require the responsible party to pay for your medical care, reimburse you for lost wages or pay you punitive damages for pain and suffering. However, in order to file a successful personal injury claim in Hawaii, you must file it before the statute of limitations expires.
What is a Statute of Limitations?
Hawaii‘s statute of limitations defines the amount of time you legally have to file a lawsuit. This means that if you have been seriously injured due to a car accident, slip and fall accident, surgical error, or any other form of negligence in the state of Hawaii, you only have a specified amount of time to file a claim against those responsible. Once that time limit expires, you can no longer file an injury claim in Hawaii, no matter how severe your injuries are.
States differ when it comes to the statute of limitations. In one state you may have 2 years to file a lawsuit while in another state you may have 3 years. Time limitations may also depend on the type of lawsuit that you are filing, such as filing a claim against a government entity versus a person or business.
When Does the Statute of Limitations Begin?
In most cases, the statute begins at the time the injury occurred, or at the time the injury should have been discovered in a reasonable manner. A car accident, for example, is a catastrophic event that is known to cause serious injuries, so the statute of limitations will begin on the date of the accident.
However, the statute of limitations surrounding medical malpractice claims will usually involve some flexibility around when you discovered the medical issue. For example, if you were the victim of a surgical error, you may not have discovered the injury for two years or more. In situations like this, the statute of limitations may not state until the date of discovery, as long as the delay was reasonable. If you were experiencing symptoms that should have alerted you to the injury, then you may not be allowed a delay in discovery.
Different Cases Have Different Time Limits
The following time limits are imposed by the Hawaii statute of limitations for filing a Hawaii personal injury claim.
- Standard claims (car accident, slip & fall, etc) – 2 years from the date of accident;
- Medical malpractice – 2 years from the time when you discovered the malpractice error and injuries sustained;
- Against a government entity – up to 2 years (or longer) from date of accident depending on the circumstances of the case.
Claims Against a Government Entity
Claims against a government entity include injuries that occur on city, county, or state-maintained property. They also include injuries that are caused by the negligence of a government employee, such as being hurt in a car accident caused by a city vehicle. The deadline for this type of claim remains the same regardless of the type of accident. Even if the type of accident would typically carry a statute of limitations longer than two years, the statute of limitations for claims against the state will supersede it. Government cases that involve a minor or mentally incompetent person may extend longer than 2 years.
If your accident requires you to file a claim against a county in Hawaii, you must do so within 6 months of the event. This deadline is firm regardless of the type of accident.
Don't Wait to File a Lawsuit
As soon as possible following an accident you should begin the process of filing a personal injury lawsuit. This includes preserving evidence of the accident and your injuries, informing the other parties involved that they are being sued, and contacting a Hawaii personal injury attorney. The sooner you set the lawsuit process in motion, the less likely you are to run out of time in regards to Hawaii’s statute of limitations.
Filing a lawsuit early not only prevents you from being denied by Hawaii’s statute of limitations but also helps keep your evidence fresh in your mind. Over time, your memory and the memory of witnesses and the other party may become weakened. It’s best to file early while the events of the accident are still fresh in your mind.
Contact a Hawaii Personal Injury Law Firm Today
After a serious accident in Hawaii, you should be able to spend your time focusing on your recovery; not dealing with insurance adjusters, never-ending paperwork and complicated legalese. The Hawaii personal injury attorneys at Davis Levin Livingston will fight for your rights while you focus on healing. Serving accident victims on Oahu, Maui, the Big Island, Kauai and beyond. Contact us today for a free case evaluation –(808) 740-0633