When a personal injury case is filed, the injured party’s medical records are among the prime considerations because they hold the evidence required to develop the case. The significance of the medical chart in turn increases the significance of medical review companies that assist the legal team in their documentation and review work. Other prime considerations in a personal injury case are the statutes of limitations and the statutes of repose. These are state laws that place a time limit on the plaintiff’s right to file a civil lawsuit after suffering an injury. Typically, a statute of limitation is expressed in years, and this period varies among different U.S states.
Typically, in a particular state, the same statute of limitations would apply to standard personal injury lawsuits and product liability lawsuits. For example, in California, the statute of limitations is 2 years; in New York it is 3 years; in Illinois 2 years; in Ohio 2 years and so on. Sometimes, it may so happen that the injured person doesn’t actually discover that he/she was injured until at a later date. Therefore, in some states there is a discovery rule based on which the time limit doesn’t start until the injury or harm caused is actually discovered. This discovery rule may sometimes work alongside what is called a statute of repose.
So, what is a statute of repose and how it is different from a statute of limitation?
Statute of repose is also a state law that also sets time limits on the right of the plaintiff to file a personal injury or product liability lawsuit. Unlike the statute of limitations, this statute protects the defendant from liability if an injury doesn’t occur within a specific period of time. In other words, plaintiffs cannot file a suit against the defendant if the injuries were not sustained before the end of the time period. To consider an example (given in tatelawoffices.com), let us take a products liability case. In the state of Texas, the statute of repose for product liability actions provides 15 years after the date of purchase. According to the statute of limitations, a person who bought the product and was injured by that product within a year has 2 years after the date of injury to file a claim. If the person bought the product and did not sustain an injury until 16 years after the initial purchase, he or she would be barred from recovering compensation as the statute of repose would have expired.
Statutes of limitations and statutes of repose differ in the following respects.
- When they begin: A statute of limitations sets the case filing time limit based on the time of injury or harm. A statute of repose sets a time limit based on the mere passage of time or the occurrence of a particular event that itself doesn’t cause any injury or initiates a potential lawsuit.
- Deadlines: In the case of statutes of repose, the deadlines are enforced much more strictly than those for statutes of limitations. These cases are usually related to specific kinds of personal injury cases such as construction defect lawsuits, product liability/product defect cases, and medical malpractice lawsuits.
- Exceptions apply in the case of Statute of Limitations, whereas it doesn’t apply to the Statute of Repose. The former may be avoided or tolled for reasons such as the age of the injured person, efforts to hide evidence, or the timing of the discovery of the injury or harm. However, the Statute of Repose is not bound by these same exceptions.
- Time to file a suit: A Statute of Repose could start running well before an injury actually occurs and doesn’t allow exceptions. Therefore, it could reduce the total time a plaintiff has to file a suit. On the other hand, the Statute of Limitations allows exceptions which can be used to extend the deadline and provides the injured party more time to file a case.
As a medical records analysis and support service for attorneys and their legal team, we know that such time limits are significant because they persuade litigants to file a lawsuit at the earliest possible time. This also ensures that the evidence is preserved, witnesses will have a clearer memory of what happened, and there is no unnecessary delay in the legal process. Plaintiffs and defendants are prompted to pursue their claims in a timely manner.
Disclaimer: This content is for informative purposes only and does not constitute professional legal advice. For a professional opinion, consult a personal injury or product liability attorney.