When you sustain an injury due to someone else’s negligence either in the workplace, from a medical professional, in an automobile accident, or in some other scenario, you have a window of time where you can file a lawsuit. This window is called a statute of limitations. Different states have different rules regarding this time limit, and various areas of law will differ in this area as well. So how does the statute of limitations work in New York and why is it important?
Statute of Limitations and the Discovery Rule
In New York, most personal injury cases will have a three-year statute of limitations. That means that you have three years from the time of injury to file a lawsuit in court. If you miss this deadline, the defendant can use the passing of too much time as a reason to get the case dismissed. However, there is a law called the discovery rule that may buy you some time.
According to the discovery rule, you actually have three years from the time you discover the injury, not from the date of the injury itself. So, for example, if you get into a car accident and sometime later start experiencing headaches, and sometime after that learn that the headaches are caused by an injury you didn’t know you had that can be proven to be attributed to the car accident, your statute of limitations clock begins once you learn about the injury.
Another exception to the three-year countdown is if a minor–someone under the age of 18–is injured. That person has three years from the time they turn 18 in order to file a lawsuit. If the case is medical malpractice, however, the suit must be filed within ten years of the injury, no matter how old the injured party is.
Why Is It Important to Have a Statute of Limitations?
The sooner a person files a lawsuit after an injury, the easier it is to access information pertaining to the incident that can help argue for or against a case. If a case is brought to court many years after the event, records may have been lost or destroyed, witnesses may have forgotten details, and the case can become impossible to argue.
The statute of limitations also protects a defendant from having a possible lawsuit hanging over their head forever. A statute of limitations provides a reasonable amount of time when the defendant can be held liable for the injury, after which time there is no longer a case.
Contact a Lawyer Early
Don’t wait until right before your statute of limitations runs out before contacting a lawyer. Lawyers frequently need time to research, investigate, and prepare a case before filing the lawsuit. This preparation time could take months, depending on the case. If you wait too long, your lawyer may not have enough time to prepare before time runs out.
If you have any questions about your statute of limitations, contact a lawyer right away. At Goldberg and Chase Law, our expert attorneys can help you navigate issues regarding your statute of limitations and will work with you to get your case filed on time.