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Don’t Let Your Statute of Limitation Run Out on You!
A Statute of Limitation is the strict “deadline” for filing a lawsuit against a defendant. Once the statute date is met, if a lawsuit is not filed, the claim is “barred” and that lawsuit can never be pursued. For example, the statute of limitation in a personal injury action is two years from the date of the injury. So, if you were injured in a car accident on May 1, 2010, you must file a lawsuit on or before April 30, 2012, or your claim will be barred. In addition to the two-year statute on personal injuries, other common statutes of limitation are: three years on a property damage claim; two years on an oral contract; and four years on a written contract. There are some statute dates that are complicated to calculate. For example, the statute of limitations on a medical malpractice claim is one year from the date the injury is discovered, or three years from the date the injury occurred, whichever occurs first. So if a surgeon left a pair of scissors in a patient on May 1, 2009, and that patient discovers it on May 1, 2010, the patient has one year — until April 30, 2011 — to file a lawsuit. If the patient does not discover the scissors until May 2, 2012 (over 3+ years), the claim is barred. (Although there is an even further exception extending the statute for foreign objects left in the body.) Lawsuits involving minors or the government also have complicated rules for determining the relevant statute dates. Further complicating the determination is that in certain cases, the statute may be “tolled” or suspended for a period of time. The Courts strictly apply the statute dates because by law, the judge has no jurisdiction if a lawsuit is filed too late. A lawsuit filed even one day late will be barred, regardless of the reasons for its lateness or the severity of the damages. Needless to say, if you have a claim that may be close to approaching the statute date, you should immediately seek the advice of an attorney or risk forever losing the ability to pursue that claim.
The information contained herein is not, nor is it intended to be, specific legal advice and although deemed to be accurate, you should not rely on it without consulting an attorney.