Reclaiming Your Life after a Devastating Accident

When Harm Has Been Done

by Stacy Dean

Many people show little to no interest in things like civil law procedure until they become victims. You can thank our forefathers for creating laws that protect citizens from the harmful effects of careless or negligent actions. Those same laws protect both sides equally, however, and many victims run afoul of the statute of limitations. Read on to learn more about this rule and one major exception to know about.

The Statute of Limitations

One way the laws protect those being sued (the defendants) is by ensuring that lawsuits are brought in a timely manner. Each state has requirements that must be followed. These requirements set out time limits for taking legal action against a person or business that has done them wrong. If you wait too long to file a suit, your actions will come to naught. Filing a case that exceeds the statute of limitations means that case either won't be accepted or will be thrown out of court. It is doubtful that a judge will ever see the case in its entirety once the other side applies the statute of limitations and asks for a dismissal.

You may be wondering why rules like the statutes of limitations exist, particularly when the rules seem to punish those who are allegedly the victims. You must consider the issue from the point of view of both sides. You have a right to file suit, but you must do so within a certain period of time. The defendant has a right to defend themselves, but they should be able to be accused within a certain period of time. Taking action on a personal injury or medical malpractice case in a timely manner means:

  1. The evidence is readily available and fresh.
  2. The memories of witnesses are more accurate.
  3. The defendant doesn't have to fear that an incident could be brought to court that occurred many years in the past.
  4. The victims can seek more timely compensation.

One Major Exception to the Statute

There are numerous exceptions to the statute of limitations, but one of the most often used is the discovery of harm exception. This legal exception reasons that a victim cannot take action when they had no knowledge that harm was done. People can be harmed in various ways, but the effects of that harm may take some time to become apparent. 

For example, workers exposed to toxic substances in the workplace may not realize what has happened to them until the statute of limitations period for filing suit has passed. That being said, just because you have more time to file doesn't mean that there is no statute of limitations to watch out for. Once you become aware of the harm done and who caused it, your statute of limitations clock starts ticking.

If you have been harmed by the actions of a place or person, speak to a personal injury lawyer regardless of how much time has passed. Allow a legal professional the opportunity to assess your case and provide you with advice on pursuing a claim.