Tennessee’s one year statute of limitations for personal injury claims often forces plaintiffs to file suit before they even know the full extent of their injuries. On the other hand, there are probably many meritorious cases that cannot be filed because the statute of limitations expires before the injury victims even think about filing a lawsuit. Occasionally, plaintiffs cannot access critical evidence due a pending criminal investigation. The Tennessee legislature has finally granted some relief in the latter situation by extending the statute of limitations from one to two years if:
“(A) Criminal charges are brought against any person alleged to have caused or contributed to the injury; (B) The conduct, transaction, or occurrence that gives rise to the cause of action for civil damages is the subject of a criminal prosecution commenced within one (1) year by: (i) A law enforcement officer; (ii) A district attorney general; or (iii) A grand jury; and (C) The cause of action is brought by the person injured by the criminal conduct against the party prosecuted for such conduct.” T.C.A. § 28-3-104(a)(2).
So if criminal charges are brought against a defendant within one year after the wreck or other event causing injury, the one year SOL can be extended for another year, if all of the foregoing conditions are met. This amendment to T.C.A. § 28-3-104 was effective July 1, 2015. Unfortunately, not many lawyers will be willing to take the risk of waiting more than a year to file suit in a personal injury case where criminal charges are pending, so this provision will not be used often. However, situations can be envisioned where a meritorious claim might be saved by the operation of this new law.