A “Statute of Limitation” determines the time frame and the last date a party can file a lawsuit. If you file a complaint on time, a statute of limitations has nothing to do with how long it takes for a case to conclude. If you believe you may have a claim, it is important to speak with Bonsignore Trial Lawyer’s as soon as possible. In addition to preserving your rights and protecting your claim in court, a trial lawyer will also help you preserve evidence, locate witnesses, and perform other tasks that will help you win your case in a timely manner. If you file a complaint on time, a statute of limitations has nothing to do with how long it takes for a case to conclude.
Statutes of Limitation laws serve two main purposes. They protect potential defendants from being forever at risk of a lawsuit. They also ensure legitimate lawsuits are filed while evidence and memories are recent.
Once you have ascertained what statute of limitations applies to your case, your next step is to determine what date the statute actually begins. A Statute of Limitations begins to run on a “Trigger Date”. No matter how clear liability is or how significant the loss after a Statute of Limitations passes unless a lawsuit is on file the related claim is time barred. Lawyers refer to this absolute deadline as the date the “Statute of Limitations expires”. If the lawsuit is not filed before the passage of the Statute of Limitations deadline, it is subject to dismissal by the court.
Statutes of limitation vary from state to state, and also vary depending on the type of claim to be filed. For example, the Statute of Limitations of a negligence claim may expire in one state in 1 year and in another state in 3 years. The Statute of Limitations of a breach of contract claim may run in 4 years in one state and six years in another. It is important for your lawyer to evaluate the Statute of Limitations at the Initial Interview. The first issues a Bonsignore Trial Lawyer resolve at the initial conference is the range of causes of action and the Statute of Limitations for each.
The period of time during which a lawsuit must be filed usually begins with the date of harm. Exceptions to this general rule pause the Statute of Limitations. This is called “Tolling”. In special cases where injury is not discovered for months or years after it occurs the statute of limitations may be Tolled.
Under the doctrine of Tolling, the Trigger Date is the date the harm was discovered by a reasonably prudent plaintiff should have known about the harm. In many cases whether the plaintiff actually knew about it or not does not control. When a reasonable Plaintiff should have known when they were injured is a question of fact. The following three circumstances illustrate this point:
Earliest Detection – the Date the Injury or Wrongdoing Occurred
On January 1, 2014 Doctor performs surgery to remove Patient’s appendix but mistakenly cuts and has to remove Patient’s spleen as well. Doctor tells Patient of the mistake as soon as he wakes up. Patient’s time period for suing Doctor begins to run on January 1, 2014 since the harm occurred on that date and Patient was informed of the mistake. If a one-year statute of limitations for medical malpractice applied to Patient’s case, he’d have one year from January 1, 2014 to file a lawsuit against the Doctor.
Later Detection – the Date the Injury or Should Have Been Discovered
Same case except Doctor does not tell Patient about the surgical mistake. Patient is in constant pain following the January 1, 2014 surgery. A month later, on February 1, 2014 Patient talks to another doctor who tells him that he should not be in pain and that he should immediately come in to have it checked out. Patient delays going to see a doctor until June 1 of the same year, at which time he finds out that his spleen had been removed on January 1, 2014.
In this situation, Patient’s time period for suing Doctor may begin to run on or shortly after February 1, 2014 because the pain coupled with the second doctor’s advice determines when Patient should reasonably have discovered the harm.
Latest Detection – the Date the Injury or Wrongdoing Was Discovered
Same case, except that Patient suffers no unusual after-effects following the January 1 surgery. Patient is unaware that anything went wrong with the surgery until June 1 of the same year, when an x-ray during a routine medical checkup reveals that his spleen was also removed. In this situation, since Patient did not discover and could not reasonably have discovered the harm until June 1, the Trigger Date is June 1.
The Tolling of a Statute of Limitations is generally limited to circumstances where a wrongdoer has fraudulently concealed their wrongdoing and the injured party reasonably could not and did not discover the wrong. It is very common in antitrust cases. The Tolling of a Statute of Limitations may also occur where the Plaintiff lacks capacity because the Plaintiff is a minor, mentally ill, or in the military.
If you believe that the Statute of Limitations may have passed in your case, you should consult a Bonsignore Trial Lawyer immediately. We will carefully analyze all the relevant facts and immediately provide you with advice.