Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations is the time period that the law allows for asserting a claim. If a claim is not brought within the time period allowed by the statute of limitations, it will be barred. This means that even if you have a clear cut case against someone arising out of a personal injury, the court will dismiss your claim if you do not file it within the time period allowed by the statute of limitations. Once a claim is barred by the statute of limitations, there is no chance of resurrecting it.
The idea behind imposing a statute of limitations for bringing claims is to prevent stale or old claims from hanging over the head of a business or person indefinitely. Also, as time passes, evidence is harder to gather, witnesses disappear or die and documents get destroyed. Thus, it would make the defense of claims difficult if not impossible if a claim could be brought for a personal injury which occurred 10 years ago.
Different states may refer to the statute of limitations periods using different words. For instance, in the statute of limitations is call the prescriptive period. If a case is prescribed, it is beyond the statute of limitations. Moreover, the statute of limitations to institute a claim may be different for different types of personal injuries. Many states have a statute of limitations period that is different for auto claims that it is for medical malpractice claims. Federal maritime claims may also be different from state personal injury claims.
The statute of limitations differs from state to state and from claim to claim. A claim for breach of contract is usually afforded a longer statute of limitations than a claim for personal injuries. Some states like have very short statute of limitations periods.
A person suffering personal injury will have one year from the date of injury to pursue a personal injury or wrongful death claim. If a claim is not instituted within this time period, it is barred by prescription.
In Texas, Alabama, and Georgia, automobile accident claims must be brought within 2 years from the date of the accident. Florida has a 4 year statute of limitations for automobile claims. Mississippi has a 3 year statute of limitations as does Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan and North Carolina. These time periods are changed every so often. You should check with a lawyer in your state to determine the applicable statute of limitations for your claim.
The law also recognizes that there are instances where a person could not have brought a claim within the statute of limitations because they were not aware that a claim existed or some other legally recognized circumstance occurred. An example of this might be where a sponge was left inside someone by a physician during surgery and the patient does not discover this fact until more than a two years later.
Accordingly, the law has created certain legal doctrines that may be used to suspend or interrupt the running of the applicable time limitations. These doctrines vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. There are some exceptions to this general rule and an attorney should be consulted to advise you on the facts and circumstances of your particular situation.
Not knowing the specific time period in which to bring a claim is not an excuse. For these reasons, it is important to determine at the beginning of the review whether there is a potential problem with the prescription.