The law limits when you can file a lawsuit to claim compensation for your injuries. The purpose of the statute of limitations is to encourage individuals to resolve their claims promptly. Physical evidence can be lost or destroyed with time, and witness memories can fade.
The exact time window varies by state and claim type. However, several exceptions can extend your statute of limitations “clock.”
The Discovery Rule
In general, the statute of limitations is considered to begin when the wrongful act giving rise to the injury occurred. However, many personal injury cases involve symptoms that do not become apparent until weeks, months, or even years later. This is why most states have adopted the discovery rule.
The discovery rule pauses or “tolls” the statute of limitations when an injury is not immediately evident. This is especially important in medical malpractice or product-related cases, where the effects of toxic exposure or drug abuse may not become apparent for years after the initial incident.
It also makes sense in car accident cases where injuries like whiplash are not always apparent on the scene. The delay between the time of the accident and the onset of pain is sometimes a result of physical evidence being lost or destroyed or witnessing memories fading over time. In these cases, the discovery rule can be a vital tool to help ensure that the time limit is not missed.
Bankruptcy is a legal process that allows debtors to reduce or eliminate their outstanding financial obligations. It is handled in federal courts and governed by the United States Bankruptcy Code. If a defendant in a personal injury case files for bankruptcy, the statute of limitations clock is automatically halted until the bankruptcy case ends.
However, there are few exceptions that may allow a case to be filed after the statute of limitations has expired. For example, some local governments are governed by 6- or 12-month “ante litem notice” deadlines that require claimants to send a written notice to the entity responsible for their injuries before the statute of limitations starts running. These little-known rules can significantly impact the ability to file a PI claim. Fortunately, some strategies can be used to breathe life back into a personal injury case after a defendant files for bankruptcy. Those strategies are beyond the scope of this blog, but an experienced attorney can provide further guidance. Get help from these personal injury lawyers to hasten your claims.
The statute of limitations establishes deadlines for personal injury claims. However, there are several exceptions. Minors are one such exception.
When a kid is hurt, their parents or legal guardians have the right to bring a claim. However, the minor must be able to show that another party’s negligence directly caused their injuries.
A Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) may also be appointed by the court to represent the minor’s best interests throughout the judicial procedure. The GAL will ensure that the minor’s rights are protected and that they fully understand all the proceedings.
If a minor is awarded compensation, the funds are typically placed into an interest-bearing account they cannot access until they turn 18. This is usually on their 18th birthday unless the child has been legally emancipated. Until then, the parent or legal guardian will pay any medical bills and other damages. This includes pain and suffering damages and disability awards.
Sometimes, the statute of limitations may be “tolled” (or put on hold) for a short time. Determining which exceptions apply to your case can be difficult, so it is best to consult an experienced attorney.
For example, suppose a foreign object is left inside a patient after surgery and does not produce any symptoms until years later. In that case, the statute of limitations may be reset to when it was discovered or should have been discovered. This is called the discovery rule.
Another potential exception is for victims who were mentally incompetent at the time of their injury. In these situations, the two-year time limit can be frozen until they can participate in their legal case. Then, they will be allowed to file a lawsuit. In addition, some municipalities have a statute of limitations that is shorter than the state’s. These are called ante-litem notice deadlines and are often overlooked.