What is a Statute of Limitations?

How long do I have to make a legal claim?

Victims sometimes think they can put their legal rights on the back burner and return to them years down the road. Medical treatment, family needs, returning to work, life gets in the way of talking to a lawyer. But the law doesn’t let you sit on your claims indefinitely. And in some cases, the law gives you very little time to pursue your rights.

Statues of Limitations (SOL)

A statute of limitation (SOL) is a law that establishes a time limit within which a legal claim must be brought. Filing a lawsuit is an example of bringing a legal claim. All types of personal injury cases are subject to statute of limitations. Food poisoning, motor vehicle accidents, burns and explosions, legionnaires disease, recalls and product safety, and even wrongful death are examples of cases where a statute of limitation would apply.

Missing the Statute of Limitations Deadline

If your claim is not settled or a lawsuit filed by the time of the statute of limitations, your case will be time-barred, and you give up your ability to hold those responsible for your injuries. Missing the statute of limitations deadline—even by just one day—can end the possibility of compensation. If you do not file your lawsuit or settle your claim within the time permitted under the statute, your right to pursue your claim will be forever lost. That is why it is so important to settle or file your personal injury lawsuit on time to get the compensation you deserve.

Variations in Statute of Limitations Requirements

Statute of limitations law can be complicated and confusing. Most statutes (laws) give one to six years from the date of injury, however, special circumstances such as if the injured person is a minor or mentally incapacitated can extend a statute of limitations timeline.

Time periods vary depending on the types of claims being made. This is true even though each claim could stem from the same incident. For example, it is not uncommon for an explosion to be due to both negligence and a defective product. Even though both claims result from the same explosion, the statute of limitation time period for each cause of action may be and often is different.

Some states recognize what has come to be known as the discovery rule. In those states that recognize it, the discovery rule postpones the beginning of the limitations period from the date when the plaintiff is wronged to the date when he or she discovers or reasonably should have discovered the injury. For example, if a person is sickened by Listeria after eating contaminated cheese, but is not tested for the bacteria until symptoms appear 60 days later, in states where the discovery rule applies the SOL might start at the point of positive testing rather than at the point of eating the contaminated food. The discovery rule is only one exception, there are also many other exceptions to the SOL requirements. In fact, almost every state has different rules and exceptions relating to statute of limitations.

Suing State or Local Governments

There also may be different SOL and other requirements if the case is against a state or local government. When suing a government entity or agency, you may be required to file a notice of claim before you can commence (file) your lawsuit. After sending a notice of claim, you often must wait for a certain period of time before filing a lawsuit. A court will dismiss a lawsuit that is filed before this period expires. Therefore it is extremely important to know how to properly pursue a claim and have a trusted lawyer on your side before you file.

Statues of Repose

Another law to consider is called the statute of repose. A statute of repose, like a statute of limitations, is a law that cuts off certain legal rights if they are not acted on by a certain deadline. Specifically, a statute of repose is a law that prevents a claim from being made after some action or event occurs other than the specific event that lead to the injury. For example, some states have a statue of repose for products that begins with the date the product is delivered. If a product turns out to be defective and injures a person eleven years after they purchased it, but the state has a ten year statute of repose on defective products, any claim from that injury would likely not be allowed. The details and the deadlines of statues of repose varies significantly among states. This is why our attorneys examine the specifics that apply in each state when pursuing claims.

Your Personal Injury Case and The Statue of Limitations

The best way to ensure that you don’t miss out on compensation because of a missed statute of limitations statute of repose date is to talk with a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. Our lawyers will analyze your case and determine the time limit that applies to you. We have experience assessing statutes and how they will apply to the facts of your case and the relevant exceptions.

Because the clock often starts ticking on the SOL right away, it is important to consult with a lawyer as soon as possible following the incident. We will ensure your claim is filed or settled within the appropriate time limit so that you can seek the compensation you deserve.

If you have been injured, contact our experienced personal injury lawyers today
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