NOTE: While the state has not tolled any statutes of limitations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, court operations have been affected, including the suspension of jury trials until at least Sept. 14, 2020. In addition, the state has moved to protect health-care providers from liability due to their actions responding to the public health emergency.
What Is the Statute of Limitations in Alabama?
For most civil claims in Alabama, the statute of limitations is two years, but the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit will vary depending on the type of case and details specific to each claim. The criminal statutes of limitations in Alabama are typically one year for misdemeanors and five years for felonies.
Alabama Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury and Negligence
The statute of limitations in Alabama personal injury and negligence claims is two years. However, it may be possible to delay the start of the Alabama statute of limitations for personal injury claims if the injury is not immediately discovered.
“All actions for any injury to the person or rights of another not arising from contract and not specifically enumerated in this section must be brought within two years.” (Ala. Code § 6-2-38 (l))
Alabama Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death: How Long Do You Have to File a Claim?
You have two years from the date the death occurred to file a wrongful death lawsuit with the court. Under Alabama Code § 6-5-410, the claim must be brought by the personal representative of the estate.
“An action by a representative to recover damages for wrongful act, omission, or negligence causing the death of the decedent under Sections 6-5-391 and 6-5-410 must be commenced within two years from the death.” Ala. Code § 6-2-38
“The time between the death of a person and the grant of letters testamentary or of administration, not exceeding six months, is not to be taken as any part of the time limited for the commencement of actions by or against his executors or administrators.” (Ala. Code § 6-2-14)
“Where the personal injury, including personal injury resulting in death, or property damage (i) either is latent or by its nature is not discoverable in the exercise of reasonable diligence at the time of its occurrence, and (ii) is the result of ingestion of or exposure to some toxic or harmful or injury-producing substance, element or particle, including radiation, over a period of time as opposed to resulting from a sudden and fortuitous trauma, then, in that event, the product liability action claiming damages for such personal injury, or property damage must be commenced within one year from the date such personal injury or property damage is or in the exercise of reasonable diligence should have been discovered by the plaintiff or the plaintiff’s decedent, and in such cases each of the elements of the product liability action shall be deemed to accrue at the time the personal injury is or in the exercise of reasonable diligence should have been discovered by the plaintiff or the plaintiff’s decedent.” (Ala. Code § 6-5-502(b))
What Is the Statute of Limitations on Medical Malpractice in Alabama?
The Alabama medical malpractice statute of limitations is two years from the date of the incident in question or the date the injury could reasonably have been discovered.
“All actions against physicians, surgeons, dentists, medical institutions, or other health care providers for liability, error, mistake, or failure to cure, whether based on contract or tort, must be commenced within two years next after the act, or omission, or failure giving rise to the claim, and not afterwards; provided, that if the cause of action is not discovered and could not reasonably have been discovered within such period, then the action may be commenced within six months from the date of such discovery or the date of discovery of facts which would reasonably lead to such discovery, whichever is earlier.” (Ala. Code § 6-5-482(a))
Malpractice (Other Professions)
The discovery rule applies to cases of professional malpractice; if the offense is discovered more than two years after it happened, a plaintiff has six months from the date of its discovery to file a claim. However, a statute of repose limits the total amount of time from the date of injury to four years. In cases involving children younger than 4, claims may be filed until they turn 8.
Alabama Statute of Repose for Construction Defects
Claims based on construction defects may be filed up to seven years from the substantial completion of an improvement to real property against any person performing or furnishing the design, planning, supervision or observation of the construction. However, this limit does not apply to cases in which an architect, engineer or builder had knowledge that a defect or deficiency existed within this seven-year period and failed to disclose the defect. (Ala. Stat. § 6-5-221 (2011))
“All actions for any injury to the person or rights of another not arising from contract and not specifically enumerated in this section must be brought within two years.” (Ala. Code § 6-2-38)
“We hold that Ala. Code 1975, § 6-2-38(l), the catch-all provision, imposing a two-year limitations period on actions seeking damages for personal injury, is applicable in [product liability actions].” (Etheredge v. Genie Industries Inc., 632 So. 2d 1324, 1327 (Ala. 1994))
“A cause of action accrues only when there is a manifest, present injury.” (Griffin v. Unocal Corp., 990 So.2d 291, 293 (Ala. 2008) citing Cline v. Ashland, Inc., 970 So.2d 755, 761 (Ala. 2007))
“In actions seeking relief on the ground of fraud where the statute has created a bar, the claim must not be considered as having accrued until the discovery by the aggrieved party of the fact constituting the fraud, after which he must have two years within which to prosecute his action.” (Ala. Code § 6-2-3)
Municipal Liability/Sovereign Immunity
In most cases, sovereign immunity shields the state from legal claims, but some exceptions exist. Claims may be filed with the state Board of Adjustment, which handles claims against the state and all of its subdivisions. Recovery of damages against government is limited to $100,000 for an injury or death to an individual and $300,000 aggregate per occurrence.
In asbestos exposure cases, the cause of action accrues on the first date when the injured party should have had reason to discover the injury. If an action is based on fraud, plaintiffs have two years after the discovery of the facts constituting the fraud, even if the claim would otherwise already be barred.
Alabama does not follow the doctrine of comparative negligence. Instead, the state has strict contributory negligence rules that bar a plaintiff from recovering any damages if they were at all to blame for their own injuries.
Charities are not immune to legal claims in Alabama.
Plaintiffs who are minors (younger than 18), insane or incompetent have a maximum of three years after removal of this legal disability up to a maximum of 20 years from accrual of the claim to take legal action. If a plaintiff has multiple legal disabilities, the statute of limitations does not run until all of the legal disabilities are removed. Rules regarding legal disabilities apply even if a guardian is appointed.
Clear and convincing evidence of deliberate or conscious malice is required to secure punitive damages. Awards are capped at three times the amount of compensatory damages or $500,000 in civil actions not involving physical injury. Punitive damages in personal injury cases are capped at three times the compensatory damages or $1,500,000, whichever is greater. These caps do not apply to wrongful death, intentional torts or class actions.
Alabama is not a no-fault state.
Consumer Fraud Complaint
The Office of the Attorney General’s Consumer Interest Division handles consumer fraud complaints in Alabama. Complaints may be filed online. You can also contact them at 1-800-392-5658.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is the Statute of Limitations on Debt in Alabama?
The statute of limitations in Alabama for debt collection is typically six years, but it’s three years for credit card debt and other types of revolving accounts.
How Are Wrongful Death Settlements Paid Out?
Wrongful death settlements are paid out by the defendant’s insurance provider to the decedent’s heirs, following the rules for the distribution of assets that are used when a person dies without a will. If the settlement is above the limit of the defendant’s insurance policy, the defendant is liable for the remainder.
What Is Considered a Wrongful Death?
When somebody dies due to someone else’s negligence, this is a wrongful death. Situations that can form the basis for a wrongful death suit include a car accident, assault, medical malpractice or faulty products. Any person, company or government agency can be held legally responsible for a wrongful death.
Do Warrants Expire in Alabama?
Misdemeanor warrants expire 180 days to one year from the date of issue, but they can be re-issued by request. Unlike misdemeanor warrants, felony warrants never expire, and action can be taken even years later.
Is There a Statute of Limitations on a Misdemeanor?
In Alabama, most misdemeanors have a one-year statute of limitations.