When clients ask this question, the issue is whether or not the lawsuit was filed within the applicable statute of limitations period. This is a very important concern because failing to file your lawsuit in time can mean that your claims will not only be dismissed, but you will lose your legal rights, as well. Although there are time limits established by law, determining the appropriate time limit is not always black and white. Let our Joplin personal injury attorney explain how this all works.
What is the “Statute of Limitations?”
There are legally established deadlines for filing nearly every type of civil claim. This time limit is referred to as the “statute of limitations.” The actual statute of limitations period will depend on the type of legal claim you are trying to bring and the state law that applies to your claim. Your Joplin personal injury attorney can help you determine the correct statute of limitations period that applies to your particular civil case, but you must bring the case to them in time. For this reason, do not delay to address your legal claims.
Why is There a Statute of Limitations in Legal Cases?
The basic purpose of a statute of limitations is practical in that evidence either supporting or disproving your legal claims is more likely to be destroyed over time. The same is true for the memories of relevant witnesses as they become less accurate. For instance, in car accident cases, the scene cannot be preserved forever. Another example is the destruction of business records as a normal course of business. In order to preserve evidence, it is necessary to file your lawsuit as quickly as possible.
What Does the “Tolling” of the Statute of Limitations Mean?
Many jurisdictions “toll” the limitation period in special situations, which means the period is suspended for a certain period of time or until certain conditions are met. For example, if the injured party is a minor, the period will be tolled until he or she reaches the age of majority in that state. If bankruptcy proceedings are involved, the time may be tolled until the bankruptcy is closed. Equitable tolling can be applied for individuals who were intimated into not bringing the claim or who relied upon a promise that the period would be suspended. In those case, it would be unfair or inequitable not to toll the period.
What is the Discovery Rule and How Does it Work?
The discovery rule also tolls or suspends the statute of limitations until an injury is or should have been discovered, depending on the situation. The way the discovery rule works is that it effectively changes when the statute of limitations begins to run. The discovery rule is most often applied in medical malpractice and wrongful death cases. In those types of cases, the cause of the injury or death is not always apparent when it first occurs, due to the nature of the injury itself. So, the statute of limitations period doesn’t start until the injury is discovered or reasonably should have been discovered. Not every state applies the discovery rule the same way, depending on the injury and other circumstances.
Missouri Statute of Limitations for Typical Claims
In Missouri, plaintiffs have two years to file a lawsuit for personal injury, defamation, and medical malpractice. The discovery statute can also apply in Missouri, for a maximum of 10 years from the date of injury. Claims for injury to property, trespassing, and enforcement of written contracts are subject to a five-year statute of limitation. Claims of fraud, rent collection, debt collection, and judgments are all governed by a 10-year-statute of limitation.
Arkansas Statute of Limitations for Typical Claims
In Arkansas, most claims must be filed within three years, including personal injury, injury to property, and libel. On the other hand, the statute of limitations for slander is one year. Written contracts have a five-year statute of limitations and there is a 10-year statute of limitations for collecting judgments. Arkansas recognizes the “discovery” exception for situations where you could not have discovered your injury until some later time.
Deadlines for Filing Wrongful Death Claims
Like most other legal claims, there is a deadline for filing a wrongful death lawsuit, which differs from state to state. This deadline or time limit is commonly referred to as the “statute of limitations.” In both Missouri and Arkansas, the statute of limitations for a wrongful death action is three (3) years.
Claims Against the Government are Handled Differently
Arkansas has different rules when a claim is brought against a government entity. In those cases, the statute of limitations period is five (5) years. Likewise, in Missouri, an injury claim against a state entity must be filed with the Office of Administration’s Risk Management Division, within 90 days of the injury. It is wise to seek the assistance of a Joplin personal injury attorney if you have a claim against a government entity.
If you have questions regarding the applicable statute of limitations for your claim or any other personal injury matters in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a free consultation. You can contact us either online or by calling us toll-free at (888) 616-6356.
He is licensed to practice law in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, eastern Arkansas, western Arkansas, and western Missouri. He was Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Crawford County, Kansas from 1987-1989.
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