The majority of cases a personal injury lawyer handles will be subject to a statute of limitations of between two and three years. A statute of limitations is a law that requires claimants to officially send their demands to defendants within a limited amount of time after an incident.
If you had a slip-and-fall incident at a grocery store in a state with a two-year statute of limitations, for example, you'd have to send them a demand package within two years of the date you were hurt. Otherwise, they may be legally able to ignore or reject the claim.
This has a major impact on how a personal injury attorney will approach a case. Let's look at three implications that come with the statute of limitations.
Time to Recover
Your lawyer will want you to recover as much as possible before filing your claim. This is to ensure there aren't unexpected medical problems that surface after you've accepted a settlement and can't sue for more money. With the statute of limitations looming, though, folks going through long recovery periods may have to file their claims whether they want to or not.
Naming the Right Defendant
If there are doubts about who might be the liable party for your injuries, it's critical to sort them out before the statute of limitations passes. Suppose you were hurt while walking past a construction site. Would you sue the site's owner or the contractors doing the work?
One of the simplest defenses available is that a party isn't the liable one. It may take time to determine who is liable, and you'll want to sort this issue out before filing. Unfortunately, if the statute of limitations expires before you identify a defendant, you're out of luck.
There are instances where the statute of limitations may be longer or shorter. For example, most governments apply shorter time periods for folks filing claims against agencies and designees. You might only have 6 months to get a case together if you're suing a state agency, for example.
Conversely, the statute of limitations is sometimes longer. For example, most states have longer periods for filing exposure claims involving chemicals, biological agents, or radiation. Similar laws are common for cases involving sexual abuse.
Likewise, the clock for the filing date doesn't always start from the time of an incident. With an exposure claim, the clock doesn't roll until you become aware that you were exposed to something dangerous.
To learn more, contact a personal injury lawyer.