Every state has a set of statutes or laws that set time limits on bringing claims or charges against another party. Statutes of limitations for criminal cases, for example, require the government to bring charges against an individual within a certain time: for felonies,with certain exceptions, criminal cases must be filed within six years, or three years for misdemeanors.
If you’ve been injured on the job, or injured in a car accident, you might be wondering what the statute of limitations is for you to attain the medical and financial compensation you may be entitled to. As Milwaukee auto accident lawyers and personal injury lawyers, our team at Murphy & Prachthauser wants to make sure you understand all of the information needed to seek legal action, from starting a free case evaluation, to a first phone call, to understanding the steps of a legal claim from start to finish.
Here is a more detailed look at statutes of limitations.
Statute Of Limitations: Civil Cases
When it comes to civil cases, notably injury cases, it is pretty much a patchwork of illogical limitations that can sometimes be uncertain.
- Most contract claims have a statute of limitations of six years.
- Uninsured motorist claims, which until recently (February 6, 2016) had a six-year limit, are now down to three years.
- Most car accidents have a statute of limitations of three years from the day of the accident,
- A car accident involving the death of an occupant has a statute of limitations of two years.
Having this patchwork of different years creates problems for everyone, for example, when a car accident involves a death and an uninsured motorist claim. Which limitation should apply? The three-year limitations for uninsured motorist claims or the two-year limitation for death claims?
How to Determine the ‘Start’ of Your Statute of Limitations Timeframe
The other tricky thing about statute of limitations is to determine the starting date for the running of the limit. In many cases, such as a car accident or slip and fall, it is simply the date of the incident. In medical device or drug cases, it is difficult to determine when the injury occurs, because it happens gradually or over time. Or when a medical device fails, people may not realize they have a claim, and they “discover” the existence of the claim by reading news reports or seeing reports on the TV news. An example of this, from years ago, involved the drug Vioxx. That drug was discovered to change the body’s blood clotting ability, but people who had heart attacks or strokes that were taking the drug would not have initially connected the drug with their medical problem. Scientists researching and publishing about the problems alerted the news media about these problems, and the news media broadcast the news to the public. This dissemination of scientific results to the public would have started the statute of limitations running for individuals who were taking Vioxx when they had a stroke or heart attack.
What Can Shorten or Extend the Statute of Limitations?
There are other exceptions that could extend, or shorten, the statute of limitations. For example, a minor generally has until two years after they reach age 18. If someone is suffering from a mental disability, his or her limit can be extended for up to five years.
On the other hand, certain types of claims cannot be brought of a defective product or a dangerous improvement to property has existed for a fixed time. For example, if someone puts up a building with a long stairway and neglects to install handrails and that condition exists for 10 years, the landlord is off the hook if that lack of a handrail causes someone to fall down the steps. It does not matter how many codes are violated, or how dangerous the situation is. The landowner is off the hook for defects in improvements that have existed for 10 years or more.
Understanding Product Liability Statutes of Limitations
When dealing with product liability cases, Wisconsin now has a limitation on strict liability claims against a manufacturer for products older than 15 years. There are still other claims that can be made, such as negligence claims, but the 15-year statute of repose for strict liability cases puts a high hurdle on pursuing claims against manufacturers if their products have been around awhile.
Determining when the statute of limitations expires can be a difficult thing in some instances. It takes an experienced attorney to accurately predict when you must have your claim settled or resolved.
If you’d like more information on whether you have a personal injury case, please complete a free case evaluation.
At Murphy & Prachthauser we are car accident lawyers and auto accident attorneys in Milwaukee who practice the law the way it should be practiced – motivated and equipped to do our best for you. We take pride in being good lawyers who help people.
If you have a case you would like to speak to a personal injury lawyer about, please contact us to schedule a free consultation and get an experienced Milwaukee attorneys working on your behalf.