Understanding the Statute of Limitations

Before someone files a lawsuit, the statute of limitations needs to be understood. This is a time limit each state gives an individual for which to file the lawsuit. If the statute of limitations has passed, the individual may not be able to receive compensation for a wrong done against him or her. Each state has a different statute for different types of lawsuits, and sometimes an extension can be granted, depending on your situation.

State Statutes

When you look at different states, you’ll quickly realize the statute of limitations varies greatly. For example, in Alabama, the statute of limitations for personal injury is only two years, but for property damage it’s six years. Folks in West Virginia have ten years to file a lawsuit for breach of written contract, but only two years to file a lawsuit for property damage.

You can see how the time limit is different in every state and for every type of lawsuit. It’s important to understand this so you don’t end up assuming something that doesn’t actually apply to you. For example, if you have a case for personal injury and you live in Idaho, you only have two years to file your lawsuit. If you have a friend just over the border in Utah who took four years to file a personal injury lawsuit, you might assume you have that same time limit, but you don’t. You might forfeit your right to compensation by assuming the wrong thing.

Statute of Limitations Extensions

There are some circumstances in which the statute of limitations might be extended, and these situations are granted on a case-by-case basis. Some reasons to extend the statute might include:

  • If the plaintiff was a minor at the time of the incident. He or she wouldn’t be able to file a lawsuit until the age of 18, which is when the statute would begin.
  • If the plaintiff was in a coma. The statute of limitations would typically begin when the individual woke up and could understand the situation.
  • If discovery took a while. When someone is injured but doesn’t know the source, or if the injury isn’t discovered until a later time, the statute may not begin until the issue is actually discovered.

Contact a Lawyer

As you can see, there are a lot of things you’ll need to know about the statute of limitations if you plan to file a lawsuit for any reason. Contact a personal injury lawyer, to learn more about whether you have a case and to see what needs to be done to get started.