On this blog, we often recommend that people who have been injured talk to a personal injury lawyer as soon as they can. This is because a claim can fail if the injured person files it after the statute of limitations has tolled.
The term makes it seem as though the statute of limitations is just one law, but in fact the term refers to provisions within many laws that establish time limits for legal action under the law. Fans of true-crime television or mystery novels may be somewhat familiar with the concept of statute of limitations in criminal law, but such deadlines exist in civil lawsuits as well. If a plaintiff files a claim against a defendant after the statute of limitations has tolled for the offense, the defendant can move the court to dismiss the case.
New York has a variety of time limits in civil actions. Most personal injury lawsuits have a time limit of three years. That is, the plaintiff must file the claim within three years after the injury.
However, certain types of personal injury cases have shorter time limits. A medical malpractice claim must generally be filed within 2 years and 6 months from the date of the incident, or from the end of continuous treatment from the defendant. A wrongful death claim must generally be filed within two years of the death.
There are cases where courts agree that the statute should begin tolling only upon discovery of the wrong, rather than from the date of the incident. For example, in a case where family members only learn two years later about the negligence that caused their loved one’s death, a court may agree to let them proceed with a wrongful death claim.
A personal injury attorney can help the injured and their families to understand how the statute of limitations may apply to their case.