Almost all legal actions have an applicable statute of limitation. The statute of limitation is the time frame within which the legal action must be initiated. In a criminal case, it is the time that the state or federal government has to begin the prosecution of the defendant. In a civil action, such as a personal injury accident, it is the time that the plaintiff (the injured party) has to file the lawsuit.
State or federal legislatures determine how long the statute of limitation will be for a particular type of case. In the case of personal injury lawsuits, it is generally the state legislature as most personal injury cases are filed at the state level. When deciding what the statute of limitation will be the legislature considers the interests of both the plaintiff and the defendant. On the plaintiff’s side, the legislature must allow enough time for the injured person to recognize that they have suffered an injury. This may seem obvious – and in some cases it is. In a car accident, for instance, injuries are generally readily apparent immediately after the accident. Other types of personal injury cases, however, may cause injuries that are not so readily apparent. Take as an example a medical malpractice personal injury lawsuit. In many cases, the victim is not aware of the injuries she has suffered until months or even years after the negligent acts of the doctor or hospital. An even better example is injuries caused by asbestos exposure. Victims of asbestos exposure may not realize they suffered damages for decades after the initial exposure. On the defendant’s side, the legislature wants to make sure that the case is filed in a timely manner to avoid a situation where witnesses have disappeared and evidence has been destroyed, The defendant clearly has the right to defend himself to the best of his ability. Once the legislature has balanced these two competing interests they arrive at the statute of limitation.
In the state of California, for example, most personal injury accident cases have a two years statute of limitation. There are, however, exceptions to that general rule. Some medical malpractice cases have a longer statute of limitation, asbestos exposure cases have a different statute of limitation and lawsuit for personal injuries where the government is a defendant have a much shorter statute of limitation. The importance of knowing what the statute of limitation is for your particular type of case cannot be understated. In most situations, if a lawsuit is not filed within the statute of limitation then the plaintiff loses her opportunity to receive a compensation award and therefore walks away with nothing for the injuries she has suffered. A qualified and experienced personal injury accident attorney will always be educated regarding the statute of limitation and be aware of the ever ticking clock.
If you have been involved in a California personal injury accident and would like a free and detailed evaluation of your case, please contact the personal injury law firm of Ledger & Associates at 1-800-300-0001or visit the firm’s website at www.ledgerlaw.com.