The statute of limitations in civil lawsuits (such as injury cases) gives you the deadline within which your lawsuit should start. However, there are a few exceptional cases in which you may be able to start your case even if the statute of limitations has expired. Here are a few examples of those exceptions:
You Weren't Aware of Your Injury
You may be able to file a lawsuit past the statute of limitations if you can prove that you didn't know about your injury or didn't know that your injury had been caused by the defendant. This is possible due to the discovery rule that some states have; it allows plaintiffs to start counting the statute of limitations from the time they learn of their injuries.
Consider an example where you are diagnosed with cancer after seven years after your retirement. If you can trace your cancer back to your work, you may be able to claim damages from your employer (or any other person responsible for the dangerous conditions that caused your cancer) even if the statute of limitations has passed. Another example is if you are diagnosed with cancer during your working years, but you only get to know that it was caused by your terrible work environment years later.
You Were Injured as a Child
In some states, the statute of limitations only begin to roll from the moment you become of age. This means if you are injured as a child, you should begin counting the statute of limitations from the moment you turn 18 years old. This is because children do not have the capacity to pursue legal actions on their own, so you can't be expected to take legal action as a minor. This provision allows you to pursue legal redress even a dozen years after your injury as long as you are still within the statute of limitations as counted from your 18th birthday.
The Defendant Was Missing
Lastly, you may also be able to start your lawsuit after the expiry of the statute of limitations if you can prove that the defendant has been missing for the duration of the statute of limitations. For example, if the statute of limitations is three years, you may still be able to sue the defendant even if they go missing for five years before returning.
Therefore, never assume that you don't have a case just because you think the statue of limitations has expired. Talk to an injury lawyer like those at Hardee and Hardee LLP to evaluate your case and see if there is an exception that can allow your case to proceed.
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