If you’ve suffered a personal injury due to the carelessness or malice of someone other than yourself, visions of lawsuits may be dancing in your head. That’s all well and good, but don’t sit back and watch the show for too long. If you intend to take legal action, you’ll need to bring down the curtain on your daydream soon before the statute of limitations brings it down for you.
That could happen sooner than you think. Every state in the union sets limits on the amount of time it allows anyone to file a suit for personal injury. The limitations exist for one important reason: to prevent an excessive passage of time from degrading the evidence connected to your case. If you fail to file your lawsuit within the allowable time frame, you will almost always lose the right to file it at all.
In most cases, the statute of limitations in a personal injury case will run for two years. This limit can, however, differ according to:
- The state in which your injury occurred.
- The circumstances under which it took place.
- Whether a specific event has extended the time frame during which you can act.
Some legal terms relating to statutes of limitations include:
- The cause of action. This expression refers to the set of facts that give you the right to bring a civil suit against the person who has caused your injury. These facts serve as the basis for filing the lawsuit.
- Tolling. When you toll a statute of limitations, you are putting a temporary stop on the clock. This extends the time frame during which you must file your lawsuit or lose the opportunity to do so.
- Discovery. There can be cases in which an injured person does not realize that an injury exists until some time has passed following the incident that caused it. If, for example, a surgeon has left a scalpel in your abdomen, the statute of limitations will not begin until the day you either discover or should have discovered its existence.
Varying Statutes of Limitations
Although the statute of limitations in most personal injury cases will give you no more than two years to file, the length of time is not written in stone. For one thing, the date on which the clock begins to tick will not always match the date upon which the harmful incident occurred. Some types of damage do not make themselves known immediately and can take months or even years to show up following the accident or circumstance that caused them. For this reason, the statute of limitations will normally not begin until the date on which you either knew or should have known of your injury’s existence.
In addition, once it has begun, the standard length of any statute of limitations in a personal injury suit can vary. For instance, it can last for as long as:
- Two years in cases resulting from or having to do with assault and battery, false imprisonment, libel, personal injury, slander, wrongful death and some lesser forms of medical malpractice.
- Three years for damage resulting from or connected with fraud, trespass, property damage and more serious forms of medical misconduct.
- Four years for cases involving contract law, legal malfeasance, fraudulent transfer or product liability.
These are generalities. In many cases, statutes of limitations will be far more specific. There are also personal injury cases for which it is possible to have more than one cause of action. This presents the option of filing one or more additional claims, each of which is subject to its own separate statute of limitations.
Tolling the Statute of Limitations
You may not always be able to beat the clock, but in a personal injury suit, you can sometimes put it on hold. The tactic is known as tolling, and it helps to delay the filing deadline in cases where:
- The victim is a minor.
- The defendant is currently bankrupt.
- The injured person is or was at the time mentally incompetent.
In most cases, however, you will have no more than two years after the date on which you suffered or discovered the injury to file a personal injury suit in civil court. If you should miss this deadline, your chances of bringing your case to court will be slim to nonexistent.
Many things can affect the statute of limitations as it applies to your injury case. If you have any questions about your situation, a qualified personal injury attorney at Weiner Law Group can help. Call 702-202-0500 today for more information.