Statute Of Limitations

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A statute of limitations restricts the amount of time after an incident in which one involved party may bring legal action against another. In civil law systems, similar stipulations known as periods of prescription, or prescriptive periods, are part of the civil or criminal code. This can apply to personal injury or even criminal charges. These limits are in place to protect everyone and keep legal proceedings fair.

Imagine that you were in a car accident. Ten years later the other involved party sued you for damages. Would you remember the facts of the incident well enough to defend yourself? Could you locate the witnesses involved or identify your insurance company from a decade ago? Obviously this would not be fair to you. From the time the accident happened, the other victim has only a limited period in which to hold you accountable for their injury or damage. The longer a period time between the injury, accident or damages and the filing of the related claim, the less likely it will be that proper evidence is still available, the eyewitnesses will remain reliable, and that the accused defendants will be capable to defending themselves adequately. This is the whole premise behind the creation of the statute of limitations. If you have committed a crime, prosecutors only have so much time to charge you. The more serious the crime, however, the longer the statute of limitations is.

There are exceptions to the rule, of course. If a surgeon leaves a surgical tool in your abdomen and it is not discovered until eight years later, then the statute of limitations would begin upon reasonable discovery of the injury. There are also controversial cases of repressed memories, such as when one does not discover memories of sexual abuse from when they were a child long until afterwards. Also, in many cases, the date of when the harm has been discovered is when the statute begins to run, or toll.

There are more exceptions to this rule concerning product liability or class action suits. If you are injured along with others and a class action suit is pending, you must either join or submit a written request to be excluded. Otherwise, you will be bound by the judgment laid out by the courts. This protects companies from facing multiple lawsuits stretched out over years.

When a statute of limitations on a case has run out, further litigation can be foreclosed if a person heightens it as a defense and that defense is accepted. Limitations can be tolled, or delayed in certain circumstances, and this prevents time from running out for filing a suit while the condition exists. Examples of this is when a bankruptcy proceeding has been filed by a defendant or if the plaintiff is a minor.

Working with an attorney can help you determine if there is a statute of limitations applicable to your injury so that you can meet its requirements. As burdensome as the statute of limitations may be, it is in place to keep the legal system fair to all parties. In criminal cases, it generally swings in favor of the defendant in order to protect their right to fairness.

Most personal injury lawyers will provide a complementary initial consultation, and can answer your questions regarding the statute of limitations for your particular jurisdiction, and your particular injury or damages, during that consultation. If you have been the victim of negligence or a negligent act that has resulted in injury, illness, damages, or other problem, you owe it to yourself and your family to contact a personal injury lawyer attorney and explore the possibilities of bringing a claim against the negligent party. You can find a qualified, knowledgeable and compassionate personal injury attorney by visiting the website of the American Bar Association, which offers free access to a lawyer locator and other valuable legal resources.


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