Mechanics of a Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations establishes a time limit by which legal action must be taken by the party pursuing the claim. In civil law, the statute of limitations refers to the time limit in which the plaintiff must file a lawsuit. If this time limit expires, any subsequent filing is invalid. The victim of a personal injury can lose his or her right to sue by not filing the lawsuit in time.
Types of Statutes of Limitations
There are various statutes of limitations across states and for different causes of action. For example, in criminal law, many states do not have a statute of limitations for murder. Some states have very short statutes of limitations, such as one-year time limits. Others have longer statutes of limitations, such as six years. It is common for personal injury claims to have a three-year statute of limitations. However, some states have one statute for certain claims like car accidents and others for other causes of action such as medical malpractice. It is important for personal injury victims to be aware of the relevant statute of limitations so that they know the deadline for filing a claim.
Exceptions and Other Differences
In addition to state laws varying and the nature of the injury potentially affecting the case, there may be additional differences regarding statutes of limitations. For example, some states provide a greater time limit for minors who sustained an injury, such as by starting the statute of limitations after the minor reaches the age of majority. Some states also provide a longer statute of limitations if the accident was caused by intentional behavior or involved fraud. However, personal injury victims should not rely on such exceptions and should consult a personal injury lawyer about the relevant and expected time limit.
Discovery of Harm
Generally, the statute of limitations begins after the individual suffers an injury. However, in some circumstances, the victim may not be aware that he or she has suffered a harm until some time after an accident or incident. In these instances, the statute of limitations does not begin until the victim knew or reasonably should have known that he or she suffered harm. For example, in medical malpractice cases, the patient may not know of any harm that was done to him or her until complications later arise and the patient requires an additional surgery. In these instances, the statute of limitations applies when the patient discovers the patient.
Any delay in discovery must be reasonable under the particular circumstances. Failing to seek medical treatment can provide justification for not applying the discovery of harm rule because of the victim’s own intentional delay in finding the source of an injury. Likewise, the discovery of harm rule does not apply to many common personal injury cases such as motor vehicle accidents and slip and fall cases because injuries in these incidences are often immediate and therefore immediately discovered.
Timing of the Lawsuit
A personal injury lawyer can advise clients on the appropriate timing of a lawsuit. Many adjusters may attempt to get victims to quickly resolve their case, but a personal injury lawyer may advise the client not to rush the case. Insurance adjusters may try for a quick settlement in a way to settle the case for less and because claims are generally resolved for less when a lawyer is not involved. However, the victim’s full extent of injuries and damages may not be fully revealed at this time, so early settlement may wind up providing an unfair amount of compensation to the victim who will still have ongoing expenses related to the accident.
At the same time, it is important for personal injury victims not to delay too long in filing suit on personal injury claims. They do not want to get too close to the statute of limitations because a personal injury lawyer will require some time to prepare the necessary pleadings. Also, delaying can cause the victim to go for too long without receiving legal advice that can help protect the victim’s legal rights.
OG Post by: HG