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What is a Statute of Limitations in a Personal Injury Case?

Reliable Personal Injury Attorney

A “Statute of Limitations” in Massachusetts is the deadline by which an injury claim must be settled with an insurance company or a personal injury lawsuit filed in court. If you believe you have a legitimate personal injury case after any kind of accident in Massachusetts, you need to be aware of the statute of limitations. If you miss this important deadline, you may lose your chance to receive justice for your injuries. Our trusted personal injury attorney at the Law Offices of Barry Feinstein & Affiliates P.C.

In this article, we’ll cover the following topics:

  • What you need to know about the statute of limitations
  • What is the statute of limitations in Massachusetts?
  • What if I fail to meet the deadline?
  • Are there exceptions to the statute of limitations?
  • What is the discovery rule?
  • Where can I find a personal injury attorney?

A knowledgeable and experienced personal injury lawyer can advise you on how your personal injury case statute of limitations may influence your tort claim. If you or a loved one has been injured after an accident, call the Law Offices of Barry Feinstein & Affiliates P.C. for a free and confidential consultation right away.

What You Need to Know about the Statute of Limitations

Here is a short list of important information about statutes of limitations.

  • A statute of limitations is state legislation that establishes a short window of time during which you may bring a personal injury claim.
  • In the event that you attempt to file a lawsuit after the applicable statute of limitations period has passed, the court will most certainly dismiss your case, and you will have lost your right to seek court-ordered compensation for your personal injuries and related losses.
  • The deadline for filing may be extended in a handful of exceptional cases.
  • An insurance adjuster keeps an eye on the deadline for filing a lawsuit related to your insurance claim, and you should too.

What is the Statute of Limitations in a Personal Injury Case in Massachusetts?

 personal injury case statute of limitations You have three years from the time of an injury to file a lawsuit in Massachusetts, whether your case is motivated by the principle of liability of “negligence” (which is applicable to claims that are filed after most accidents) or intentional tort, as outlined in section 2A of Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 260.

It doesn’t matter how severe your injuries are; if you don’t settle your claim or file a lawsuit against the at-fault party before the statute of limitations expires, you will lose your ability to seek compensation. The insurance company is not legally authorized to extend the deadline.

What Happens If I Failed to Meet the Filing Deadline?

If you file a lawsuit more than three years after the underlying accident, the defendant (this is the person that you are suing) will most likely make a “motion to dismiss” and bring this matter to court. So unless you fall under one of the very few exceptions that would allow the court to grant you extra time, your case will be summarily dismissed. At that point, you have no legal recourse to seek compensation from the defendant for your personal injuries, regardless of how severe they are or how glaring the liability of the defendant may be.

The Massachusetts statute of limitations in a personal injury case is clearly important if you wish to take your injury case to court through a formal lawsuit; however, the filing date imposed by this law is also important in a personal injury settlement negotiation with the defendant and their insurance company. Once the three-year deadline has gone, you will have no bargaining power, and the phrase “I’ll see you in court” will be nothing more than a useless threat.

Exceptions to the Personal Injury Statute of Limitations in Massachusetts

Massachusetts has outlined a list of possible scenarios that might cause the statute of limitations “clock” to be delayed or paused after it has begun to run, thus extending the deadline. These are several examples of situations for personal injury victims that could prompt the regular timeline to be modified:

  • If the injury victim was under the age of 18 when the underlying accident happened or “is incapacitated by reason of mental condition,” the injured person will have the full three years to bring a personal injury case after they reach the age of 18 or have their competence restored. (Section 7 of Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 260)
  • If the person who caused the complainant’s injuries moved out of Massachusetts after the accident, that period of absence will probably not be counted as part of the 3-year filing period. In other words, the “clock” won’t start ticking during this time. (Section 9 of Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 260)
  • If the party at fault “fraudulently hides” their liability or takes other measures to prevent the injured party from discovering the right to file a lawsuit, it is likely that the time period during which the fraud or concealment was occurring will not be included in the three-year statute of limitations. (Section 12 of Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 260)

If you have any concerns about how the Massachusetts statute of limitations relates to your personal injury case, particularly if the deadline is near or has already passed, you should consult with an experienced Massachusetts personal injury attorney.

The “Discovery Rule” Statute of Limitations Exception

The “discovery rule” is a common exception to the standard “statute of limitations” deadline in personal injury cases in most states. In general, the discovery rule extends the filing period in cases where the injured person was unaware (and did not have any reasonable basis for knowing) that:

  • They were injured or
  • That the injury could have been brought on by the potential defendant’s actions.

As unusual as it may seem, this circumstance is not rare at all.

An Example of the Discovery Rule

Massachusetts has a standard three-year statute of limitations for personal injury cases, but it also has a discovery rule that states that its statute of limitations for personal injury cases doesn’t start running until the date the plaintiff: 

  1. Had knowledge or had enough notice that they were injured; and 
  2. Had knowledge or had enough notice of what caused the injury.

Let’s imagine that asbestos was used to insulate the pipelines in your house. Twenty years later, you got mesothelioma, a type of lung cancer that can only be caused by asbestos. Your doctor inquires as to whether you have asbestos in your home. Testing confirms that the pipes in your basement are insulated with asbestos, indicating that your home insulation has been exposed as well as airborne for the whole time you’ve lived there.

Because the statute of limitations deadline has most likely expired (although your lawyer may assert that continued exposure equates to ongoing harm), the discovery rule may be the only means you can file a lawsuit for personal injury based on your asbestos exposure. Your defense would thus argue that the “clock” of the statute of limitations didn’t start ticking until the day that your doctor informed you that asbestos exposure was the cause of your lung cancer.

In many types of personal injury claims, relying on the “discovery” rule is not an option (like those from dog bites or car accidents). However, in addition to the asbestos example, the rule may legally come into play in medical malpractice and product liability cases (which involve dangerous and defective products).

Get Help from our Massachusetts Personal Injury Lawyer!

Personal injury law can be quite strict. Any time you’re involved in an accident in Massachusetts, it’s crucial to know how the statute of limitations affects any potential legal action you take. The statute of limitations becomes critical when your injuries are severe and it seems that the at-fault party or the insurance company will not make a fair settlement offer.

It is in your best interest to discuss the details of your case with an experienced Massachusetts personal injury attorney in order to explore your legal options and protect your rights.

Individuals and families who have suffered serious losses because of the negligence or wrongdoing of others are the people we advocate for. Our team of personal injury attorneys has a firm grasp of the mentality of both insurance companies and opposing lawyers.

We treat every personal injury case as if it were going to trial, and we will not back down from taking a case all the way to a jury verdict in Massachusetts if that is what it takes to get you the best possible outcome. Reach out to our firm right now to speak with a personal injury lawyer serving the Peabody, Massachusetts, area!

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