Legal-Injury Rule Law and Legal Definition

Legal injury rule is a principle that a cause of action generally accrues when a wrongful act causes some legal injury. Therefore the statute of limitations on a claim does not begin to run until the claimant has sustained some legally actionable damage. For example, under the legal-injury rule, contract claims generally accrue when the contract is breached. A breach occurs when a party fails to perform a duty required by the contract.

The two exceptions to the legal injury rule are: the discovery rule, and fraudulent concealment. Under the discovery rule, an action does not accrue until the plaintiff knew or in the exercise of reasonable diligence should have known of the wrongful act and resulting injury. The rule postpones the running of the statutory limitation period until such time as the claimant discovers, or in exercising reasonable diligence should have discovered, facts that indicate he has been injured. Under the fraudulent concealment exception to the legal injury rule, accrual is deferred because a person cannot be permitted to avoid liability for his actions by deceitfully concealing wrongdoing until limitations has run. In such cases, the limitations period is tolled until such time as the plaintiff learned of, or should have discovered, the deceitful conduct or the facts giving rise to the cause of action.

The doctrine was initially articulated by the Texas Supreme Court in Houston Water-Works v. Kennedy, 70 Tex. 233, 8 S.W. 36 (1888).Under the Texas legal injury rule, "a cause of action accrues when a wrongful act causes some legal injury, even if the fact of injury is not discovered until later, and even if all resulting damages have not yet occurred"Legal injury" is defined as "an injury giving cause of action by reason of its being an invasion of a plaintiff's right.[Best v. Exxon Mobil Corp., 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 27886 (S.D. Tex. Mar. 23, 2010)]

Legal injury rule is also known as damage rule.