Time is always a factor when taking a personal injury lawsuit to court. The statute of limitations dictates that a victim only has a certain amount of time to file a lawsuit. However, varying degrees of state-specific rules and exceptions to the statutes of limitations make the matter more complicated.
State Dependant Statute of Limitations
Each state has it’s own set of statutes of limitations that define the time frames within which different types of cases must be initiated. Many (but not all) states have a two year period of time to file a claim for negligence and wrongful death. It is important to note that each state has different time limits for other types of claims. For example, the time to file a claim for assault or battery might be one year, while the the time to file a product liability claim might be two years in the same state. This is why it is very important to retain a lawyer who is familiar with your state’s statute of limitations, and to take legal action as soon as possible. (It should be noted that it is important to hire a lawyer as soon as possible after you suffer an injury because it will allow your attorney to investigate the facts of your case while memories are fresh. An early investigation may also help the lawyer determine whether you have a valid claim and begin settlement negotiations with the insurance company.)
Factors Affecting the Statute of Limitations
Some factors may affect the statute of limitations by shortening or extending the time allowed to make a claim. When the government is the defendant for a claim (such as a defective roadway case), you should expect a shorter statute of limitations. On the other hand, if the then plaintiff is disabled in such a way that may make the process of filing a claim more difficult, than the statute of limitations may be lengthened. Other factors include intentional acts of damage, fraud, age of the plaintiff, and death caused by medical malpractice. Any of these factors may affect your case. This is yet another reason to consult an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible.
Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations
Often the statute of limitations period begins to run as soon as the event takes place. However, there are exceptions.
The discovery rule is one such exception. In certain scenarios the victim may not know that a particular injury has been sustained until long after the event has taken place. An example of this could be a brain injury which did not become apparent until weeks or months after the incident that caused it. In such a scenario, many states provide for a “discovery rule” that will begins the statute of limitations from the point of discovery as opposed to the time of the event. However, if the the injury was clearly evident, or if there was no diligent attempt to identify the injury, then the rule of discovery may not apply. Additionally, some states may set limitations on the rule of discovery depending on the specific type of case at issue. For example; a death due to malpractice may have a three year discovery rule period, but the discovery rule cannot exceed six years past the date of the actual death of the victim.
Another exception is if the plaintiff dies due to the personal injury before filing a lawsuit, then a wrongful death claim may be taken to court after the personal injury statute of limitations has expired.
In some states, the statute of limitations restricts the claims that can be made for product liability. For example; if a product has reached a certain age and has been off the market for certain amount of time, then the claim for product liability may be rejected.
Due to the nature of the statute of limitations and how it may vary and change depending on circumstance, it is wise to retain a professional injury attorney as soon as possible. The time period usually starts to run as soon as the event that caused the personal injury takes place.