Some states impose filing deadlines as short as one year. Very limited filing periods are also common when injury or death claims are brought against a government. In some states, plaintiffs are allotted up to six years to petition a court for damages.
Limited filing times allow civil cases to reach an end point, when no party has the right to sue or be sued. A petition filed beyond the deadline will be rejected by the court and the opportunity to take legal action is lost. There are exceptions, as with most government regulations.
In some cases, the filing start date for a personal injury claim is suspended until an injured minor turns 18, no matter how long ago the injury actually occurred. In other instances, delayed discovery rules apply. In some medical malpractice cases, a doctor’s error, like the failure to remove a misplaced surgical sponge from a patient’s body, may not be detected until the patient undergoes corrective surgery.
In that instance, the victim didn’t know and couldn’t know the source of injury. However, late discovery rules frequently don’t apply to animal bite claims which involve visible, immediate injuries.
Statutes of limitations are one of the main reasons lawyers encourage victims to seek legal assistance as soon as possible following an injury. The burden of proof and, therefore, the bulk of work in every liability case rest with plaintiffs, the injured parties.
Massachusetts attorneys are mindful of the deadlines imposed by state laws and procedural rules set by civil courts. Plaintiffs do themselves a favor by giving lawyers plenty of time for case assessment, evidence gathering and trial preparation.
Source: General Laws, “The 189th Court of The Commonwealth of Massachusetts” accessed Mar. 12, 2015