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Do You Still Have Time? Understanding The Statute Of Limitations Rule

If you've been injured by careless or negligent actions, you may have a personal injury case against the wrongdoer. Whether it's a bad driver or a negligent business owner, you have a perfect right to go about your day without having to worry that someone else is going to ruin it by causing you to sustain an injury. You may have heard of something called the statute of limitations, and it's super important to keep this rule in mind when you are considering filing a case. Read on to learn more about this rule, and for some important exceptions to it.

Time Keeps Ticking Away

You must keep in mind where your accident occurred to get a proper idea of what the statute might mean to your case. Many people are confused about this issue, but the place where your accident occurred is known as the venue. You may have heard of "change of venue," where a defendant requests that a criminal matter is changed to pick a less prejudicial jury.

The venue for a personal injury case must be the same as where the incident occurred. So here, state law decides what the statue of limitations will be. For example, if you are from New Jersey, but were injured in Florida while on vacation by a driver from Minnesota, you must look to the state of Florida's rules about how much time you have to file. The takeaway here is that no matter how awesome your case against the wrongdoer may be, it doesn't stand a chance if you wait too long to file your suit; it will simply be "thrown out of court."

Tolling the Statute

When certain circumstances exist, it's possible to temporarily stop the ticking of that clock on the statute of limitations. This is known as tolling the statute, and it gives you more time to file suit if you meet the requirements. You should never count on tolling to give you more time, however, unless you meet the following guidelines:

Discovery of harm is one common use of tolling. The law says that you cannot take action against someone if you had no idea that you had suffered from harm from them. This type of exception usually exists when you have suffered a slow-acting injury, such as toxic exposure. Once you know about the harm, however, the statute of limitations clock begins to tick, and you are now facing a finite date to file or lose your chance at any compensation from the party that wronged you.

Other less common exceptions include incapacity or age. If you are physically or mentally incapacitated, you may have unlimited tolling until you are able to make decisions based on a physician's opinion. The mentally ill have no limitations on when to file suit. If you are a minor, your tolling runs until you reach the age of majority, usually age 18.

While it's nice to know about these exceptions, do not just assume that you have plenty of time to file suit. Speak to a personal injury attorney right away. For more information, contact car accident lawyers near you.