How soon must I file a personal injury lawsuit before I forever lose the right to do so?
The time after any kind of accident can be stressful, especially when you’re trying to recover from injuries. But if you want compensation for your medical bills and lost wages, you will need to file the lawsuit within a timely manner.
The amount of time you have to file the lawsuit is known as the “statute of limitations.” Each type of lawsuit has its own statute of limitations, ranging in different amounts of time depending on the severity of the incident and the damages associated with it. The state that you live in or that the incident occurred in will also influence the statute of limitations. Once that time period has passed, you will be unable to submit a lawsuit about that incident again.
For a personal injury case, the statute of limitations can vary drastically. Because there are many different kinds of injuries and cases that fall under the umbrella of personal injury, statutes of limitations can range from one year all the way up to six years.
In the state of California, the statute of limitations for an injury is two years. This means that you have two years from the date of the injury to file your personal injury lawsuit. Once those two years have passed – even if you are one day over the two-year limit – you will be unable to file your lawsuit.
How to Extend the Statute of Limitations
Although knowing the statute of limitations is important for your case, there are a few circumstances where you may be able to file a lawsuit outside of the statute of limitations.
The first is known as the “Discovery Rule.” The Discovery Rule leaves an opening for you to file a claim after the statute of limitations has ended if new information presents itself that you did not have before. This usually includes information about the defendant’s actions and how they contributed to your injury. The Discovery Rule may also apply if an injury does not appear until after the statute of limitations has passed.
The Discovery Rule is most present in cases where the injury or condition must develop. For example, if you were exposed to particles or materials that caused lung cancer later in life, you would be able to file a personal injury lawsuit after the statute of limitations is up.
The Discovery Rule changes the date that the statute of limitations begins. Instead of saying that the statute of limitations begins on the day that the incident occurs, the Discovery Rule says that the statute of limitations begins the day that you learned harm was done that lead to your injury.
The statute of limitations can also take a pause if the defendant leaves the state that you would need to file the lawsuit in. If the individual is not in the state for the majority of the time that the statute of limitation gives you to file the lawsuit, you will have additional time to file the lawsuit.
You may also be given additional time to file your lawsuit if you are a minor, have a disability, or have mental health issues that may make it more difficult for you to file the lawsuit. However, these leniencies will depend on your state laws. A personal injury attorney can help you determine if you qualify or if your state has such extensions.
Why You Shouldn’t Wait to File Your Lawsuit
After an injury or an accident, it is natural that you have a lot of things on your mind. You’re trying to return to health and attempting to get your life back together after the accident. While this can take time and you are able to take a few months to gather your thoughts and make a plan about your next steps, you don’t want to wait too long.
The extensions for the statute of limitations can often be difficult to prove and make the process even more complicated. This is why you should always be aware of filing the lawsuit within the appropriate amount of time.
You should begin the process of filing for the personal injury case as soon as you have any indication that you may have a case. To jumpstart the process, you will want to reach out to a personal injury attorney who can help you throughout the entire process and determine when the statute of limitations for your case will end.