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Statute of Limitations

Definition - What does Statute of Limitations mean?

The statute of limitations is the amount of time allowed to file a personal injury lawsuit after you have been injured by the negligent actions of another person. Failing to file your personal injury claim within the state's specified statute of limitations for that particular type of claim will eliminate your right to sue for compensation.

Consider, however, all states have established their own statute of limitations, which varies by case type. For instance, in some states you may have more time to file a libel case versus a car accident case.

For more information about your state's statute of limitations you can talk to a personal injury lawyer, but generally the statute of limitations for all injury claims will extend from one to six years.

The statue of limitations and the discovery of harm rule

Although the courts generally follow the statute of limitation rules outlined above, there are cases where the time period will not start to run until the injured party has knowledge or should have knowledge of their injury.

For example, if you had surgery and the surgeon left an instrument in your body but you did not discover the instrument until several years later, the courts may decide that the statute of limitations should not start until the discovery of the instrument rather than the date the doctor made the mistake.

The discovery rule most frequently arises in wrongful death claims and medical malpractice claims. It does not generally arise in the most common personal injury claims such as car accidents and slip and falls where the injury should be readily apparent.

The statute of limitations may also be "tolled" under specific conditions. For instance, if the injured party is a minor, insane, or in prison at the time of injury the courts may suspend the statute of limitations and restart it at a later time.

Statute of Limitations and claims against the government

The information provided above specifically applies to filing an injury claim against a non-governmental entity or person. If you have been injured by the negligent actions of a state or federal governmental worker while they were performing their job duties, under the Federal Tort Claims Act, you may have a right to seek compensation for your losses.

Unlike filing a traditional personal injury claim, however, you will first have to file an administrative claim with the governmental agency which employed the worker. In some cases, the statute of limitations for certain personal property claims and injury claims could be as little as six months; other claims such as a breach of contract may allow up to one year.

The governmental body will have a specific amount of time to review your case and decide whether to award compensation. If they reject your claim you will have up to six months to file a lawsuit in court.

Failure to file your governmental claim within the statute of limitations will bar you from receiving compensation for your injury. Unfortunately, the statute of limitations for governmental claims can be complicated. Talk to a lawyer if you have any questions.

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