How Long Do You Have to File a Lawsuit?

How Long Do You Have to File a Lawsuit?

When suffering from a personal injury, or experiencing medical malpractice, filing a lawsuit is probably not the number one priority. However, as the dust settles, it is usual for the victim to begin wondering if they should pursue legal action before it’s too late. Just how much time do you have to file a lawsuit?

The amount of time a plaintiff has to file a lawsuit can vary according to the statute of limitations. Each state has its own time limits, but even within the same state the statute of limitations can differ depending on the type of lawsuit. Here in Tennessee, the statute of limitations for a personal injury and medical malpractice claim is one year. However, the rules can often be complicated so consult with a lawyer to confirm how much time you have.

When Does That Clock Start Ticking?

Once the appropriate statute of limitations have been determined the next step is to figure out when the clock starts. In most cases, this will be the date on which the harm happened to the plaintiff. For example, in a personal injury claim, it will be the day of the injury. However, there are some exceptions which are designed to protect plaintiffs who may not immediately be aware of the full extent of the injuries that have happened. In these situations, the ‘date of discovery’ is when the statute of limitations begins. 

In most cases, the injured party should be aware of when the harm occurred but if for some reason, they do not then they are still entitled to the same amount of time during which they can raise their lawsuit. A good example of this would be a medical malpractice lawsuit. The plaintiff may not discover lasting damage caused by malpractice until a later date.

In most types of lawsuits, but especially in medical malpractice suits, there are three different times when the statute of limitations would begin depending on the situation:

1.    Date of Harm – The date of harm is the earliest of the three. If for example, a medical malpractice suit is raised following a botched surgery, the date of harm is the day of the surgery. However, this also assumes that the patient was immediately made aware of the problem upon coming around from the anesthesia. There are also other scenarios which could change the date considerably.

2.    Reasonable Date of Discovery – In the same example, the doctor may not inform the patient that there was a problem during the surgical procedure. In that situation, the patient may remain unaware until they begin to experience symptoms a few months down the line. At this point, a doctor may suggest that something was not quite right with the surgical procedure so the date of that appointment may be taken as the first day of the statute of limitations.  That is the day when the patient could have discovered the malpractice that has taken place, even if it takes some time after that to confirm that there was a problem.

3.    Date of Discovery – In the final scenario, the patient has no symptoms for a full year following the procedure, but during a routine check-up, it is discovered that there is an indication of medical malpractice. This would be considered the date of discovery, even though it is a year after the initial incident.

Butler, Vines and Babb is a leading law firm in Knoxville, TN, with extensive litigation experience in Medical Malpractice LawBirth Injury LawTrucking Accident LawPersonal Injury Law, and Business Law. Contact us today at www.butlervinesbabblaw.com or call 866-701-9631.

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