Understanding the Texas Car Accident Statute of Limitations

statute of limitations on car accidents

In Texas, you have the right to recover compensation from someone who injured you in a car accident, but you must act quickly to file legal action. The statute of limitations requires you to file your lawsuit within a specific timeframe or risk losing your opportunity. These laws give victims a chance at justice while balancing the rights of defendants against unexpected claims. Below, a car accident attorney from Wolf Law, PLLC explains the Texas car accident statutes of limitations.

General Statute of Limitations for Car Accidents in Texas

When you or a loved one has been hurt in a car accident, the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code states that suits for personal injury must be brought not later than two years after the harmful incident. This is usually the day of the accident, although it can occasionally be later.

For example, if a person dies from a car crash, the family members may file a wrongful death lawsuit to recover compensation. Because the death is the triggering event in a wrongful death claim, the date of death is when the statute of limitations begins to run.

Circumstances That Can Extend the Statute of Limitations

The two-year statute of limitations is not absolute in every case. Certain circumstances can extend the time limit for filing an injury lawsuit. These usually relate to the defendant’s mental competency or their location at the time of the litigation.


If someone is under a legal disability when an injury occurs, the statute of limitations is tolled (stops running) for the period of the disability. A person is considered to possess a legal disability if they are either:

  • Younger than 18 years of age (regardless of marital status)
  • Of unsound mind

The limitations period begins to run again when the period of disability is over. A second period of disability may not be added to the first period to extend the time limit. The disability must exist at the time of the injury to toll the statute.

Absence from the State

If the defendant leaves Texas, the absence period will affect the applicable statute of limitations, delaying action until the person can be brought back to the jurisdiction.

Weekends or Holidays

If the last day of an applicable limitations period falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or holiday, the period will be extended until the next business day.

Discovery Rule

statute of limitations on car accidents discoveryThe discovery rule applies when an “injury is by its nature inherently undiscoverable” and is “unlikely to be discovered within the prescribed limitations period despite due diligence,” according to the Texas Supreme Court. In these instances, the statute of limitations will not begin to run until a person discovers their injury or, using reasonable diligence, could have discovered it.

Determining whether an injury is or was inherently undiscoverable is dependent on the circumstances of each particular case and the actions and awareness of the person injured. Inherently undiscoverable does not mean completely unable to be discovered, nor is it merely the inability of the injured victim to discover the injury within the limitations period.

Discovery does not mean waiting until all possible effects of an injury are known. A car accident victim may realize they are hurt before they have fully determined the extent of their injuries and the identity of the at-fault parties. The statute of limitations would begin once they discover they have been harmed.

Personal Injury Claims Against State and Local Governments

wrongful deathUnder the Texas Tort Claims Act, government entities are liable for the injuries caused by their employees acting within the scope of their employment if the accident meets both of the following criteria:

  • The injury arises from the operation of motor-driven vehicles or equipment, and
  • The employee would otherwise be personally liable to the claimant under Texas law.

However, a government unit must be notified of a claim not later than six months from the date of the incident. Municipalities within the state may have shortened the notice period even more than that, so it’s important to check for the particular requirements of a given governmental unit.

Insurance Companies and the Statute of Limitations for Car Accidents in Texas

The personal injury statute of limitations applies to claims made against other persons or entities for injury claims such as those resulting from car accident lawsuits. Even though an insurance company may represent the at-fault party, the claim is still against the wrongdoer and must be made within the statutory period.

If an insurance company does not abide by the terms of its own contract, it can be sued, with a four-year statute of limitations. However, the law allows insurance companies to reduce the period to two years in their contracts. If an insurance contract requires notice before a lawsuit, the notice period must be reasonable and not less than 90 days.

In addition, the Texas Insurance Code prohibits insurance companies from engaging in unfair claims settlement practices. Known as ‘bad faith,’ actions against insurance companies for unfair claims settlement practices must be brought within two years of the bad faith action or within two years after the unfair practice is discovered.

What Happens if You Fail To Bring A Car Accident Claim Within the Statute of Limitations?

Statutes of limitation exist to ensure that legal claims are brought in a timely manner. This helps preserve evidence and promotes the efficient resolution of disputes. Unless extenuating circumstances exist, you can lose the right to bring a claim if you do not file your personal injury lawsuit within the statutory time period. This could leave you paying for your own losses out of pocket without the chance to obtain financial compensation from the responsible parties through the court system.

If you have been injured in a car accident in Texas and want to pursue a car accident injury claim for damages or file a lawsuit, don’t delay. You need to understand the Texas car accident statutes of limitations in order to protect your rights and plan the appropriate legal strategy. The Dallas personal injury attorneys at Wolf Law, PLLC can help you determine which laws apply and how much time you have to bring your claim. Contact us today for a free consultation in our Dallas or Grand Prairie offices in either Spanish or English.