The clock on your personal injury case starts ticking when you learn that you are injured.
It seems like it should be straightforward: you were hurt in an accident, and you get a settlement from the person or entity that caused the injury. But in the personal injury world — as in the legal field in general — there are many rules that have to be followed in order to successfully win a lawsuit or obtain an insurance settlement.
One of the rules governing personal injury cases is the statute of limitations. It works to limit claims to a certain time period after an injury was discovered. In California and Arizona, the statute of limitations for personal injury cases is two years. This means that you must file a lawsuit within two years of either being injured or discovering that you were injured, or give up the right to ever sue. It is important to note that in some situations — such as when the government is the party responsible for your injury — the statute of limitations may actually be shorter or even longer.
In many personal injury cases, the date that a person was injured is incredibly obvious. You were in a bad car accident or slipped and fell, and got a broken bone or a bad cut as a result — that’s the date of your injury. But not all personal injury cases involve immediate, obvious injuries. Imagine that you use a product over a long period of time and develop cancer as a result of prolonged use (such as women who used talcum powder for feminine hygiene and later were diagnosed with ovarian cancer). There isn’t one particular day that you were injured, so the clock starts running when you discovered that you were injured. In the case of a product that caused cancer, the injury was discovered when the cancer was diagnosed many years after a person started using it.
The discovery of harm rule can be incredibly helpful to plaintiffs in personal injury cases who may not know that they were hurt immediately after an accident, using a product, or taking a medication. Imagine a case where a person slipped and fell in a store. The person might feel fine, and shake off the fall. But perhaps the fall actually caused a small fracture or nerve damage, which later led to serious medical problems — more than two years after the fall occurred. If the person did not discover harm until later, then it may be possible to file a lawsuit more than two years after the injury occurred. The clock starts running once the person discovers that he or she has been injured, so that the deadline to file a lawsuit is now two years (or whatever the time may be) after the discovery.
Of course, every personal injury lawsuit is different, and the application of the statute of limitations and the discovery of harm rule depends on the specific facts of the case. That is why it is important to consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer after being hurt in any type of accident. A skilled attorney can evaluate the facts of your case and help you decide whether to file a lawsuit. He or she can also make an argument for extending the statute of limitations based on the fact that you did not discover that you were injured until much later.
If you have been hurt in any type of accident, contact the Law Offices of Larry H. Parker today at 800-333-0000 or firstname.lastname@example.org. We have recovered millions of dollars on behalf of our clients, and we will work hard to get the best possible recovery for you. We offer free initial consultations, and we never charge a fee unless we get money for you.