Time Limitations in Personal Injury Cases

Personal Injury Lawyer

Each state imposes time limits on filing lawsuits, and it is important to be aware of these time limits if you are considering filing a lawsuit. If you do not file within the time period prescribed by your state, you will not be able to bring your lawsuit at all. You should be sure to consult an attorney to find out what the time limitations are for your claims in your state.

Statutes of Limitation

A statute of limitations is a law prescribes how long an injured plaintiff has to file a lawsuit once they have been injured. A statute of limitations is usually expressed in years and varies by state and the type of lawsuit a plaintiff is filing. Typically, the same time limitation that applies to tort and personal injury cases applies to product defect and defective drug cases. 

Many states apply a “discovery” rule to personal injury statutes of limitations. While some injuries, such as those from a car accident or dog bite, are discovered right away and can more easily be traced to a responsible party, others take longer to materialize. The discovery rule pauses the “clock” on the statute of limitations until the plaintiff discovers their injuries. However, this rule only applies if the plaintiff could not reasonably have discovered their injury right away. The statute of limitations does not begin to run until the plaintiff discovers the harm or reasonably should have discovered the harm. 

Statutes of limitation are subject to certain exceptions. They may be tolled, or paused, in several circumstances to effectuate fairness. First, if the plaintiff is a minor when the injury occurred, the statute of limitations will be tolled until the plaintiff turns eighteen. Second, the statute of limitations will be tolled if the defendant conceals evidence in an attempt to prevent the plaintiff from discovering their injury, discovering that the defendant was the cause of their injury, or moving forward with their case. 

Statutes of Repose 

A statute of repose differs from a statute of limitations because it sets a deadline based on the occurrence of an event that did not itself cause the plaintiff’s harm. In other words, a statute of limitations is triggered by an injury, while a statute of repose is triggered by the completion of an act. 

Statutes of repose typically apply to specific kinds of personal injury claims. For example, in product liability cases, a statute of repose is often imposed to bar plaintiffs from bringing suit after a certain amount of time has passed after the product was sold. In construction defect cases, a statute of repose typically bars plaintiffs from suing after a certain period of time has passed since the project was completed or the property was sold. 

Because of the discovery rule, statutes of repose often expire before statutes of limitation. A plaintiff might not discover their injuries until long after a construction project has concluded, for example.

Statutes of repose are not subject to the same exceptions as statutes of limitations. 

Thanks to the personal injury lawyer at Eglet Adams for their insight on statutes of limitations and repose in personal injury cases.