COVID-19 Orders Did Not Toll Statute of Limitations in Car Accident Case Per Texas Court

Under Texas law, people hurt in car accidents have the right to seek compensation from the parties responsible for their harm. They must do so within the time prescribed by the statute of limitations, though, otherwise, their claims will most likely be dismissed. While typically determining whether an action is timely is a straightforward undertaking, governmental orders issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic can complicate the process. In Olivia Segovia v. Suzanne Stebbins (NO. 14-21-00078-CV), the Court of Appeals of Texas, Houston (14th Dist.), analyzed whether emergency orders required the tolling of the statute of limitations in a lawsuit arising out of a car crash, ultimately determining that they did not. If you suffered harm in a collision, it is in your best interest to meet with a Texas car accident attorney about your potential claims as soon as possible.

Factual and Procedural History of the Case

It is alleged that the plaintiff sustained injuries in an auto accident involving the defendant in October 2018. She filed a personal injury lawsuit seeking damages from the defendant over two years after the date of the accident. The defendant filed an answer in which she argued that the plaintiff’s claims were barred by the statute of limitations.

Reportedly, following discovery, the defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing that Texas’s two-year statute of limitations for negligence claims required the dismissal of the plaintiff’s claims. In response, the plaintiff argued that emergency orders issued by the Supreme Court of Texas in response to the COVID-19 pandemic extended or tolled the statute of limitations. The trial court granted the defendant’s motion, and the plaintiff appealed.

Statutes of Limitations in the Context of COVID-19 Orders

On appeal, the court addressed the discrete issue of whether the trial court erred by granting the defendant’s motion in light of the COVID-19 order that was in effect at the time. The court explained that a defendant moving for summary judgment on the grounds that a claim is barred by the statute of limitations bears the burden of conclusively establishing that defense. If the defendant meets its burden, the plaintiff must then raise a fact negating the defense in order to avoid summary judgment.

In the subject case, the court noted that the order in question stated that a court might modify or suspend deadlines in civil matters during the COVID-19 pandemic, subject to constitutional limitations, but did not require them to do so. In other words, it was within the court’s discretion as to whether the statute of limitations should be tolled. As the tolling of the statute of limitations was not mandatory, the court found that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in finding that the plaintiff’s claims were time-barred and granting summary judgment in favor of the defendant.

Talk to a Dedicated Texas Attorney About Your Rights

Even if a person injured in a collision has compelling evidence that another party should be held accountable for their harm if they do not act promptly, they will waive the right to recover compensation. If you were hurt in a car accident, it is wise to talk to an attorney about what damages you may be owed. Earl Drott is a dedicated Texas attorney who can advise you of your rights and gather the evidence needed to provide you with a good chance of obtaining a favorable outcome. You can contact Mr. Drott through the online form or at 903-531-9300 to set up a free meeting.

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