What is a Statute of Limitations?
What is a statute of limitations? It is a legal deadline to file a lawsuit. The timeframes are defined by laws, written as statutes, which vary from state to state. Statutes of limitations differ depending on the type of legal claim as well.
Why do we have statutes of limitations? After an event, recalling what happened gets more difficult for the parties concerned, including witnesses. Important evidence may be lost if a case is brought to court a long time after the incident. Additionally, people want to get on with their lives without the fear of legal interference cropping up well into the future. That would certainly make for a lot of paranoia, wouldn’t it, if there was no time limitation for bringing a claim to court. “That woman fell in my building 10 years ago, and NOW she wants to go to court?? That building burned down 5 years ago….!” “I have no personal recollection, but my records reflect that she was my patient 17 years ago and apparently I saw her twice.”
That’s why it is up to the injured person or party to adhere to deadlines if they want to file a lawsuit. They shoulder the responsibility for it, which makes sense – they are seeking justice for a wrongdoing against them. A statute of limitations is met, or satisfied, as of the date the complaint is timely filed with the court. If a complaint is filed after the statute of limitations has passed, the lawsuit will be thrown out of court.
Statutes of limitations also depend on the type of injury. Here is a list of different injury categories (state variances shown in parentheses):
* Negligence: personal injury (1 to 2 years) or intentional wrongdoing (1 to 6 years);
* Professional malpractice: medical (1 to 4 years from act or occurrence of injury, or 6 months to 3 years from discovery, and certain circumstances will extend statute, including if party is a minor, foreign object, or fraud), and; legal (1 to 3 years from date of discovery, or a maximum of 2 to 5 years from the date of the wrongful act);
* Breach of oral contract (2 to 6 years);
* Breach of written contract (3 to 6 years);
* Misrepresentation and fraud (3 to 6 years);
* Fraud or mistake (3 to 6 years, time commencing on date of discovery of fraud or mistake, not the occurrence);
* Enforcement of civil judgment (5 to 25 years);
* A claim against a government entity (usually less than 1 year);
* Federal income taxes (10 year limit on collection of federal taxes); and
* State income taxes (varies from state-to-state; some states have no limit on this).
Currently in Kentucky, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims (ex: medical malpractice, slip and fall) is 1 year. A workers’ compensation claim falls under the the statute of limitations of 2 years from the date of injury, or 2 years after the last voluntary payment of income benefits, whichever occurs last. Injuries as a result of an automobile accident fall within a 2-year statute of limitations from the date of the accident, or 2 years from the last PIP (personal injury protection) insurance payment, but not exceed a total of 4 years. Interesting note – some case law suggests that ATV’s are not considered vehicles in the same sense, in which case the statute of limitations for injuries sustained while operating an ATV would be only 1 year.
Attorneys will help those experiencing injury establish what their particular statute of limitations is. It is very important not to exceed the deadline if one wishes to present a claim to court. Seek legal assistance to be certain you understand what to do, and when to do it, to protect your right to file claims.
This article is not to be construed as legal advice. I am not an attorney. It is merely an article to promote awareness. Contact an attorney with any questions you may have.
Laura McDonald is a paralegal. She has many years of experience in the areas of personal injury (accident related and medical malpractice), workers compensation, civil litigation, family, environmental, and corporate law, estate planning, and bankruptcy. She is employed by Michael L. Hawkins & Associates, P.L.L.C. in Frankfort, Kentucky. Her website is: http://www.paralegalsecretary.bravehost.com. Laura is available to encourage anyone interested in entering the paralegal field or seeking to improve related skills.