Every state has limitations regarding the time period a personal injury victim has to file a case or perform other legal action. These time limits are called the Statute of Limitations. In Arizona, the statute is also referred to as ARS 12-542 or Arizona Revised Statute § 12-542(1). Personal injury lawyers know their state’s statutes well and can inform accident victims regarding their case viability and time limits for filing the claim in the state where the accident occurred.
Legal action must be undertaken by associated parties within the time limit set by the state’s statute of limitations. For civil cases, the statute of limitations relates to filing of a suit by the injured accident victim, the plaintiff. If the plaintiff attempts to file a case after the statute of limitations has expired, that case is invalid. This means that the accident victim will not have the right to sue for any damages after that expiration.
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Each state has its own set of statutes of limitations, with different limitations for varied types of cases. Criminal cases are often free of limitations for filing, such as in cases of murder. A one year time limit may apply for other types of cases in a particular state, whereas some states may allow six years or more for filing. The average for personal injury case limitations is two years, although case types can play a role in limits on causes of action. What applies for a medical malpractice case may not apply for an auto accident claim, as examples. When considering a personal injury case, it is critical that victims understand their state’s statute of limitations in order to meet deadlines for filing before it is too late.
Laws vary from state to state in the area of statutes of limitations. The type of injury for a claim may affect these statutes in regard to applicability to a given case. But there may also be differences in statute applicability in regard to circumstances of the case.
As an example, if a minor under the age of 18 is the party injured in a claim, some states allow the statute of limitations to be deferred until the minor is of majority age. If fraud or negligence are involved in a particular case, states may offer lengthier statute of limitations on that accident.
But victims of personal injury cases need to gain the consultation of a personal injury lawyer in regard to their state’s statutes of limitations. The attorney can clarify time limits that are applicable to their case so victims are not left guessing or relying upon exceptions.
The most common scenario in statutes of limitations is for the time limit to begin from the occurrence of the injury. But it may be some time before victims are aware of their injury at all, such as in some medical malpractice cases. This is where “discovery of harm” relates to a claim. When discovery of harm applies to a case, the statute of limitations does not start until the victim became aware of the injury or should have reasonably become aware of the harm upon them.
When a medical malpractice event occurs in surgery, for example, the patient may believe their symptoms are associated with expectations of having that surgery. It may only be much later that the patient is made aware that harm to them occurred during the surgery, as a result of medical negligence. If the patient needs an additional procedure to fix the errors of the first surgery, the statute of limitations begins when the patient first discovered their complications.
If a medical malpractice victim does not seek prompt medical treatment for complications arising after negligence, the discovery of harm rule may be negated due to the victim’s intentional delay regarding their injury. This is just one example of how a delay in discovery can be considered unreasonable according to the circumstances of the injury.
Discovery of harm usually does not apply to auto accident cases or slip and fall injuries. This is because these accidents leading to personal injury cases often provide immediate recognition of injuries, as well as immediate discovery.
Timing of a lawsuit can be guided by a personal injury attorney. Insurance adjusters frequently try to get injured parties to settle their case quickly. But it may be better for the client to take appropriate time to review their case with a personal injury attorney to determine next steps.
The desired quick resolution by insurance companies is often the means by which they try to pay victims less money than they would pay if a lawyer becomes involved. This is common in cases where personal injury lawyers have not been engaged with the victim. But early settlement can lead to underpayment of compensation by insurance companies due to the victim’s lack of awareness of the extent of their injuries and resulting damages. Medical expenses related to an accident frequently extend over long periods. So a quick settlement will often not take future costs from the incident into account.
Although a quick settlement without a personal injury attorney’s consultation is often a bad decision, it is equally important that accident victims do not delay speaking with a lawyer about their claims toward understanding of applicable statutes of limitations. There is time required in preparing pleadings needed for a case and waiting until the time limits are almost expired can create obstacles toward filing. In addition, waiting too long before gaining support and guidance of a lawyer can lead to the rights of the victim being overlooked.
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