law-booksPlease, let’s try to keep the following a secret from Russell Wilson.  We have no desire or intent to upset him.  However, if the embodiment of a personal injury claim ran onto CenturyLink on game day, Russell might have to find another number to wear.  Once again, we really don’t want to upset.  But, the number three is so critical to personal injury claims that…well, you know.

So, why is three so important?  Let’s talk about Statutes of Limitations for a little bit.

Statutes of Limitations are more Important than the Seahawks?

If you’ve suffered personal injuries in an accident and are contemplating a lawsuit, just maybe.  A statue of limitations is basically a law that places a specific deadline as to when a lawsuit can be filed.  For example, for personal injury claims involving the proof of negligence, the statute of limitations is three years.  This means that if a person wishes to file a personal injury lawsuit, he must do so within three years.  If he waits until the day after the three year period expires, the lawsuit will almost certainly be dismissed.

Granted, there are a few exceptions that may extend this three year period.  However, they should not be relied upon if you wish to file a personal injury claim.  Please note that the statute of limitations, for personal injury suits, usually begins to run on the date a person was injured.  But, Washington State law does recognize

The “Discovery Rule” Exception

Washington law recognizes that there are times when it’s not reasonably possible for a person to know that a specific injury has occurred.  For example, consider the medical malpractice realm.  In the past, doctors have performed medical procedures in which they have left an object (e.g., a surgical sponge) in a patient’s abdomen.  This act may go unnoticed for four years until the same patient undergoes a related procedure and the object is only then discovered.  Perhaps the original object caused abdominal injury to the patient that the patient had no idea of.  The statute of limitations obviously expired, but can the patient still file a lawsuit?

Thanks to the discovery rule, the answer is maybe.  The discovery rule essentially allows a lawsuit to be filed within a certain time period after an injury has been discovered (or, reasonably should have been discovered).  In the hypothetical above, the applicable statute of limitations expired prior to the actual discovery of the injury.  With the discovery rule, the patient may still be able to file a suit against the initial doctor.

What’s the Reasoning Behind a Statute of Limitations?

Many claimants may feel frustrated with the notion that their, otherwise valid legal claim, could get dismissed because it wasn’t filed within a specific time period.  However, we should note that there are sound reasons to support a statute of limitations.  These include:

  • A plaintiff should exercise reasonable diligence when filing a lawsuit
  • The passage of extended time could result in lost evidence for a defendant

In addition, statutes of limitations help prevent parties from filing lawsuits until the very last minute.  This is a good thing because:

  • Witnesses get lost:  The passage of time means that a crucial witness to an event may have forgotten the event or perhaps even died.
  • A Plaintiff’s memory fails:  Over time, all of our memories have difficulty recalling certain facts and details with exact clarity.  If a plaintiff stalls on filing a claim, he may simply lose solid recollection of events.
  • Documents disappear:  In certain cases, physical documents may be critical in proving, or disproving, a claim.  The passage of time may result in these documents getting lost, misplaced, or destroyed.

Don’t Let Time Expire

If you have suffered personal injuries as a result of an accident, event, procedure, prescription, etc., contact our office today.  Don’t wait to talk to an experienced attorney about a matter until it’s too late.  Statutes of limitations do not stop running for inconveniences, second-guesses or clouded judgment.  Protect yourself, and your legal claim, by contacting our firm now.

And oh, Mr. Wilson, if you’re reading this…the Phillips Law Firm proudly supports the Seahawk’s current #3.  Go Hawks!