Recently, the Texas Court of Appeals of the Fifth District ruled against a plaintiff who had been injured by a car accident due to the statute of limitations having elapsed.
In Weeks v. Cockrum, Terry Weeks filed a lawsuit following a car accident in September 2009, claiming that the defendant had operated her vehicle in a negligent manner. Less than two years after the accident, Cockrum temporarily left the state from June 16, 2011 to June 19, 2011. Then in September 2011, Weeks filed the lawsuit against Cockrum. Cockrum denied Weeks’s claims and argued that Weeks was barred from bringing a lawsuit by the statute of limitations. The accident had occurred on September 15, 2009, and Weeks had filed the complaint on September 19, 2011. Weeks countered that because Cockrum had left the state, a tolling provision in place extended the statute of limitations for the three days he was gone. The trial court ruled in favor of Cockrum and Weeks appealed.
The Court of Appeals first examined the state’s two-year statute of limitations, which states that the limitations begin to run in a personal injury case at the time of injury, whether or not the injured [arty was aware of the injury. At the same time, the Texas legislature also created a tolling provision that lengthened the time to file a lawsuit under certain circumstances. These circumstances include “the absence from this state of a person against whom a cause of action may be maintained.” That said, while Cockrum did leave the state, the Court of Appeals noted that Weeks never seemed to be aware of his circumstances, and there was no evidence that Cockrum could not have been served otherwise.
The court examined other cases with similar circumstances. In those cases, where the defendants had left the state for 14 and 17 days respectively, the court found that the defendants’ absence did not suspend the statute of limitations, which meant that the plaintiffs filed their lawsuits after the two-year statute of limitations had elapsed. The court stated that the purpose of the tolling provision was to prevent situations where a debtor entered the state, incurred a debt, fled the state, and defaulted. It was not meant to apply to cases where the “debtor” was otherwise in the state of Texas except for a brief period of time. Therefore, the Court of Appeals upheld the summary judgment motion against Weeks.
This case illustrates the importance of filing a lawsuit as soon as possible, as well as the frustration of dealing with the statute of limitations, especially since not all injuries are clear cut at the time of the accident. This case will not be the last word on whether the tolling provision applies.
If you or a loved one has suffered due to an injury in a car accident caused by another driver, you may be entitled to compensation, including medical expenses, loss of wages, and pain and suffering. The experienced San Antonio personal injury attorneys at Carabin & Shaw may be able to help. Call our office for more information at 1-800-862-1260.