Can You Toll the Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury in Washington State?

Statute of LimitationsAlthough state law only gives you three years to file a personal injury lawsuit in Washington State under ordinary circumstances, there are quite a few ways to toll (suspend) that deadline.

Some of the exceptions apply to the plaintiff, and others apply to the defendant. Work with a lawyer who can help you file your lawsuit and address any issues pertaining to the tolling of the statute of limitations.

Absence From the State or Concealment

If the defendant goes into hiding, you can sue her when she is located, per RCW 4.16.180.

Let’s say that a person who lives in our state kills another driver because of driving while intoxicated. The drunk driver goes into hiding after the wreck. When she is located, the clock starts running on the deadline to sue. The time she was unavailable does not count toward the three-year time limit.

Personal Disability

A plaintiff who cannot bring a lawsuit because of a personal disability can toll the statute of limitations. For purposes of tolling the deadline, Washington statues define “personal disability” as being:

  • Under the age of eighteen (except for medical malpractice cases);
  • Being incompetent;
  • Not being able to understand the nature of the legal proceedings because of a disability; or
  • Being held in jail or prison prior to sentencing for a criminal offense.

The person must have had the disability at the time that the cause of action arose if he wants to use the condition to delay the statute of limitations. Also, if a person has more than one disability when the right to file a lawsuit accrues, all such disabilities must be removed before that person can sue or be the subject of a lawsuit.


If either the person who wants to file a lawsuit or the defendant dies before filing the lawsuit, different time limits kick in that could affect the deadline. For example, if the right to sue survives the death of the plaintiff, his representatives can file a lawsuit within one year of his death, even if that date is longer than three years after the original personal injury accident.

Person in United States Military Service

A person who is in active military service for the United States has the right not to be sued for specific causes of action and in certain situations. The time during which the law prohibits you from suing this person will not count toward the three-year limit to file a personal injury lawsuit.

Judicial Proceedings

Sometimes, a statute or a court order (injunction) will prohibit anyone from filing a lawsuit against a person. When this happens, the time of prohibition will not count toward the three years.

For example, A wants to sue B for personal injuries sustained in a car crash that B caused. A judge issues an injunction that prohibits any lawsuits against B for six months. That six-month period will not count toward the three years A has to file a personal injury lawsuit.

When the Law Deems an Action Commenced

Whichever happens first, the service of summons on the defendant or the filing of the complaint, will be the point at which the law considers the action begun for purposes of cases involving tolling of the statute of limitations.

You have to file the complaint with the court within 90 days of serving the defendant if service happened first. If filing the complaint was the first thing to happen, you must get personal service or begin service by publication within 90 days of filing the complaint.

Getting Legal Help for Your Personal Injury Accident Lawsuit

You do not have to stress out about how much time you have to file your injury lawsuit or whether there is some reason that the law will extend the deadline. At Max Meyers Law, we can help you file your lawsuit after a car accident and meet any applicable deadlines to preserve your right to file a lawsuit.

Call us today at 425-399-7000 for your free consultation.

Max Meyers
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Max is a Kirkland personal injury attorney handling cases in Seattle, King County & surrounding in WA State.