If you don’t work in the legal system, you’ve probably never heard of a "statute of limitations." While this is a formal-sounding term, the basic concept is fairly easy to understand. “Statute” is just another word for a law. And the word “limitations” literally means that the law limits the time within which you must file a lawsuit.
The idea behind imposing time limits on people who want to bring lawsuits is that while an injured person has a right to recover damages, a wrongdoer has a right to not have to worry about a potential lawsuit forever. Statutes of limitations represent the balance of these two competing interests.
The California State Legislature decides how long people have to bring various types of lawsuits. If you think about it, many different people may be responsible, in some way, after an accident occurs. Although the basic idea behind a statute of limitations is relatively easy to understand, applying the various statutes of limitation is one of the most important jobs your attorney performs for you. That is because if you do not file your case within the proper statute of limitations, you lose the right to sue.
Imagine that you are riding as a passenger in your own car when a crash occurs. Your next door neighbor was driving the car with your permission. Your neighbor was cited by the police for running a red light, and that appears to have been a factor that caused the crash. The driver of the other car was texting while driving, which prevented her from reacting timely to your neighbor’s error. And to add insult to injury, a post-accident inspection shows that a brake system part was faulty, and may have contributed to the crash.
You suffer severe injuries and are taken to the hospital, where you are diagnosed with multiple broken bones. However, the treating physician misses diagnosing other serious injuries, and you suffer permanent impairment of your ability to walk as a result of his failure to recognize and promptly treat nerve damage.
You visit an experienced accident lawyer, who conducts her own investigation and recommends that you file a lawsuit against several different people and entities. Many of your claims will have different time limitations for filing.
Your lawsuit against the texting driver of the other car is a personal injury lawsuit, which carries a two-year statute of limitations. Your claims against the manufacturer of the faulty brake part are known as “products liability” claims. The statute of limitations for these suits is either two or three years, depending on the type of injury involved. Your claim for property damage against your neighbor will be governed by a three-year statute of limitations. And your claim for medical malpractice must be filed within one year after discovering the injury. As you might imagine, dealing with statute of limitations issues are often tricky.
The Alexander Law Group, LLP is a nationally-recognized and award-winning personal injury law firm with offices in San Jose and San Francisco. We are passionate about our clients and our community. We are advocates for our clients and we invite you to read what our clients have to say. If you or someone you know has been injured, contact us at the Alexander Law Group, LLP or call 888.777.1776. All calls are free and confidential.