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Rhode Island Personal Injury Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations for personal injury & accidents in Rhode Island is three (3) years (Ref: R.I. Gen. Laws § 9-1-14). 

What this means is that you (or your attorney) must file a lawsuit against a defendant within three years of the date of your accident. If you do not file a lawsuit within three years, generally you forfeit any potential claim against the defendant as a matter of law - meaning there will be no opportunity for a settlement, arbitration, or trial. 

Disclaimer: Although the information presented on this page is generally true there are some exceptions to this information, and the Rhode Island Statute of Limitations (and the exceptions) may change over time. If you or a family member was involved in an accident and considering seeking compensation for your injuries it is crucial that you speak to a Rhode Island personal injury lawyer to discuss your claim and potential recovery.

Variations on Time Limits for Filing a Lawsuit in Rhode Island

There are some variations & exceptions to the 3 years statute of limitations on personal injury cases in Rhode Island. Because of this, it is critical you discuss your matter with a lawyer who is highly experienced in personal injury law. 

  • "Strict" Liability for Dog Bite/Attack Cases In many states, dog owners are protected (to some degree) from injury liability the first time their dog injures someone if they had no reason to believe the dog was dangerous. This is often called a "one bite" rule. In Rhode Island, however, a specific statute (R.I. Gen. Laws § 4-13-16) makes the owner "strictly liable", meaning regardless of the animal's past behavior, the dog owner is responsible for a personal injury caused by his/her dog. Specifically, the statute reads:
    [If any dog] “assaults, bites, or otherwise injures any person while traveling the highway or out of the enclosure of the owner or keeper of that dog, the owner or keeper of the dog shall be liable to the person aggrieved, for all damage sustained, to be recovered in a civil action, with costs of suit.”
  • Damage Caps in Rhode Island Injury Cases Damages in personal injury cases are sometimes "capped," or limited, by state law. Caps may affect different types of damages, like non-economic (sometimes called "pain and suffering") damages.
    Rhode Island does not cap damages in personal injury or medical malpractice cases. However, plaintiffs in wrongful death cases may not recover punitive damages in Rhode Island. 
  • Injury Claims Involving the Rhode Island Government When an injury or accident involves the potential liability of a state-level government employee or government agency in Rhode Island, a different set of rules applies to the case. You have three years after an injury to file a formal claim (not a lawsuit), which must be filed in writing with the state Attorney General.

What if You Miss the Deadline to File a Lawsuit?

If you miss the deadline to file a lawsuit and the Rhode Island statute of limitations passes (barring any exceptions), the opposing party will almost surely move for case dismissal and it will likely be granted. This also means that nearly any hope of a settlement will also be forfeited because there is no leverage to potentially pursue a trial (since it would immediately be dismissed). 

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