- Accident and Injury Law
- Personal Injury Lawyers
- The Language of Accident and Injury Law
- Statute of Limitations
Statutes of Limitations and the Discovery Rule
There is an exception to the statute of limitations; it is called the discovery rule. While the statute of limitations for a personal injury case may state that a lawsuit must be filed within a specific period of time following the accident or injury, the time limit might not begin until the moment when the person knows or should reasonably have known that he or she had suffered harm, and what the nature of that harm was.
So, if a surgeon accidently leaves an instrument within a patient during surgery, but this is not discovered until years later, the personal injury statute of limitations may not begin at the time of the first surgery, but could start at the time that the error was discovered. However, the delay in discovery must be reasonable. So, if in the instance described, the patient was experiencing abdominal pain but did not have it medically examined, there would be good reason that the error should have been discovered earlier and the statute of limitations could begin from that earlier time and not from the actual time the error was discovered. However, keep in mind that the discovery rule is quite rare, especially in the more common personal injury cases. There is generally nothing that needs to be discovered in a basic “slip and fall” case.
State laws change from year to year, so check with an experienced personal injury attorney to determine the statute of limitations for your personal injury case.