Understanding the Statute of Limitations in Personal Injury Cases
If you are considering filing a lawsuit, you will want to understand the term “statute of limitations.”
This is the time frame within which you must file your common-law action. The limitations are set so someone does not have an unfinished legal issue hanging over their head indefinitely.
At the same time, the injured party has limited time to decide whether or not to file a lawsuit to recover their damages. Otherwise, their filing will be time-barred.
There are different statutes of limitations depending on the severity of the offense and the jurisdiction. If you delay filing a case and file outside of the limited time frame, it may be too late to seek compensation or find the at-fault person responsible for your injury.
There are statutes for civil and criminal cases, however, there is no statute of limitations on murder, a criminal charge. There is a limited time within which to file for any lesser or violent criminal act.
Statutes of limitations may be established by legislative action or from judicial common law.
When Does the Clock Start?
The date of your injury – whether a car accident, a medical mishap, a trip or fall or a dog bite – is when the clock starts.
In some cases, you may not know right away that you have been injured. For example, during medical malpractice, it may take weeks or months for you to realize that your surgery did not improve the medical condition but injured you further. In that case, the clock starts when you knew or should have reasonably known that you had been injured.
Some states are stricter and start the clock when the injury allegedly occurred, whether you realized you were injured or not.
Personal Injury Cases
In Alabama, the civil statutes of limitations are generally two years from the injury to a person or property. If the injured person is a minor, the time limit does not begin until he turns 19.
The person who files is known as the plaintiff and the at-fault negligent party is the defendant.
Consider some of the areas of personal injury:
- Product liability or defective product lawsuit – The two-year limit means you must file a personal injury lawsuit within two years, or whether there was property damage or wrongful death. There is a one-year statute of limitations for any action filed against an original seller.
The defendant had a duty to test the product to ensure it was safe for its intended use before putting it on the market. If the defendant knew or should have known the product could injure the user, that is the basis of a product liability case. They may be seeking compensation for defective manufacturing or design of the product, negligent misrepresentation, breach of warranty, and a failure to warn.
In some cases, a defective product may be a violation of the state’s consumer protection laws.
Some cases of personal injury are not discovered right away. For example, if someone is exposed to injury-producing toxins or radiation that will harm over time. In that event, the product liability action for damages must commence within one year from the date that injury or damage was discovered by the plaintiff.
- Medical Malpractice – In Alabama, the statute of limitations on a medical malpractice claim is two years. Even waiting for as little as one day past the two-year deadline means you cannot sue for medical malpractice.
There are exceptions. If you could not possibly have known about the injury, the Alabama time limit can be extended beyond the two-year window and should begin within six months from the date of discovery.
A “statute of repose” requires a medical malpractice action to be filed no more than four years after the medical error was committed, regardless of when your injury was discovered.
Your Alabama Personal Injury Attorney
Understanding the law and its exceptions makes hiring a personal injury lawyer worth its weight, as a survey by the Insurance Research Council finds the average person receives a settlement more than three times larger after hiring a personal injury attorney.
Let experienced personal injury attorney Chip Nix answer your law, litigation, and settlement questions during a complimentary consultation. You can reach his office at 334-203-6669 or contact us online to schedule an appointment.