Statutes of limitations and personal injury claims

If you've never been seriously injured before due to someone else's negligence, you may not realize that your time to take action to protect your rights is actually limited by law.

In fact, in Louisiana, that time limit is actually rather short -- you usually only have one year from the date of an injury to file a personal injury claim. If you fail to act in a timely manner, the statute of limitations kicks in and you give up your right to ask for compensation for your injuries forever.

When injuries are hidden

"Hidden" injuries are actually a common problem. A hidden injury is something that hurts the health of a person without being obvious at the time. It may take months or years after a hidden injury occurs for the damage to show. By that time, the ordinary limits on your time to file a claim may already be past.

For example, imagine that you had a surgery in 2016. Everything seemed fine until 2018, when you suddenly developed an intense pain. An x-ray reveals that a pair of surgical forceps were left inside you and they've apparently been sitting there all that time.

Normally, since the surgery was over a year ago, the time limit to file a claim would have already passed before you even found out you were harmed. However, since you never had any pain before and you hadn't had an x-ray, you had no reasonable way of knowing about the surgeon's negligence and the injury done to you until the pain started.

In cases like those, the Discovery Rule allows the court to reset the time limit you have to file in order to give you a fair chance to take action.

Ultimately, the law tries to be fair to everyone, and cases are usually not as clear-cut as that. Even in cases of surgical mistakes, defendants often try to argue that a plaintiff should have known about the injury sooner and the statute should be allowed to expire -- either because they had mentioned pain near the surgical site, suffered infections or some other reason.

Anybody who suffers a personal injury due to someone else's negligence should consider exploring their legal options quickly -- before they run out of time.

Source: FindLaw, "Time Limits to Bring a Case: The 'Statute of Limitations'," accessed Feb. 02, 2018

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