Most people understand what the term statute of limitations means. Simply put, you must file a claim within a certain period of time, or you will lose the ability to file at all. The time for filing claims varies from 1 year in Louisiana, Kentucky and Tennessee, to 6 years in Maine. Most states (24 at this writing) give you two years to file. However, you may not know the four exceptions to the statute of limitations:
The Discovery of Harm rule (also referred to as the Rule of Discovery), allows the time for filing the claim to begin once the harm has been discovered. These are cases where the harm could not be known at the time of the occurrence, but would become apparent at a later date.
A good example of the Discovery of Harm rule concerns asbestos injuries. Many people had years of exposure to asbestos, but did not begin to show signs of lung cancer until twenty years later. In this instance, the statute of limitations would begin to run when the person was diagnosed by a doctor. A very specific type of lung cancer is associated with asbestos exposure, and the plaintiff would then be able to associate the cancer with his contact with asbestos, prompting the claim.
There are no statutes of limitation rules for minors, the mentally ill or persons incapacitated. If the plaintiff is under the age of 18 at the time of the injury, the statute of limitations begins running on their 18th birthday, no matter how long ago the incident happened. In addition, the statute of limitations may not apply if the plaintiff is mentally disabled, or incapacitated in any way. For example, if an accident left the plaintiff in a coma, the statute would begin running once that person was deemed to have regained their full faculties by a doctor.
The time may be extended if you move from the state where the injury occurred. Some states allow the statue of limitation to stop running temporarily if the plaintiff moves out of the state for a period of time. The clock begins running again when the plaintiff moves back to the state where the injury occurred.
These exceptions are rare, but important to keep in mind. It could mean a devastating loss of possible compensation if you just assume that it's too late to file. Remember, laws can be changed at any time, so check with personal injury lawyers like Mooney and Associates LLC for accurate and up-to-date information.