Every state has its own deadline for filing personal injury lawsuits; this deadline is referred to as the “statute of limitations.” This means that a lawsuit must be filed within a certain time limit from the accident or injury, or else the injured party’s legal claim will be barred and they will forever lose the right to sue over that claim. In other words, the clock starts running on the statute of limitations on the day that you were injured. Depending on the state, the statute of limitations for personal injury cases ranges from one to six years. It’s important that, in the event you have an accident or slip and fall case, you are aware of the applicable statute of limitations to ensure that you don’t file your claim too late.
In some states, the type of personal injury claim can affect the time limit the injured party has to file a claim. For example, some kinds of defamation cases and claims involving persons under 18 may be granted longer time limits, while medical malpractice claims might get a reduced time limit. Most states have an exception to the standard statute of limitations time limits known as the “discovery rule” (or “discovery of harm” rule). The discovery rule exception extends the filing deadline in cases where the injured party was unaware of either: the injury, or the fact that the defendant’s actions may have caused the injury.
An example of the discovery rule in action is a medical malpractice claim where a surgeon left a temporary bandage in a patient’s abdomen, but the mistake was not discovered until years later. In this case, the statute of limitations would probably not start to run until the mistake was discovered. However, for this exception to apply, the delay in discovery must be reasonable. For example, if the patient experienced abdominal pain for years after the mistake but refused to seek treatment, the discovery rule exception might not apply.