What is the statute of limitations?

Readers of the Salem personal injury law blog may be aware that they can file a personal injury lawsuit against someone who has caused their accident. Whether it was caused in a car accident or truck crash or by a medical professional’s malpractice, it is possible to hold a party accountable for your harms. However, individuals may not know that time is of the essence in these situations, meaning the claim must be filed within a certain time limit otherwise a valid claim may be time barred.

Known as the statute of limitations, the act places time limits during which a case must be filed. Each state has its own statute, but the overall effect is the same-any action after this time will not be possible and the right to sue will generally be lost forever. In Massachusetts, the statute of limitations is three years of the accrual of the cause of action.

Generally, the statute stipulates that the lawsuit must be filed after a certain period of time after the accident or injury took place, but this time period often does not start running until the accident victim knew or should have known that they had suffered harm.

A classic example of this is a medical malpractice claim-where a surgical error in the form of leaving a temporary bandage in the patient’s abdomen has been made, the patient may not know about the condition until years later. Since the patient would have no reason to know until either another procedure or a delayed worsened condition, the lack of knowledge would not be considered unreasonable. They may be able to bring a claim long after the statute of limitations had expired. The time would start running after the discovery of the harm.

Understanding the statute of limitations and how it affects one’s personal injury claim is very important-discovery of injuries after a car accident is different from those found after a botched surgery. It may be beneficial to consult an experienced attorney as soon as one realizes he or she is the victim of someone else’s negligence. This will help ensure they don’t lose their right to recover compensation.


FindLaw Network