Regardless of how much care you take, an accident can happen when you least expect it. Whether you suffer injuries in a car accident or during a visit to dangerous premises, you will be entitled to seek recovery of damages if there is proof of another party’s negligence or carelessness. However, you must file a legal claim within Missouri’s statute of limitations.
The statute of limitations is a legal rule under which you must file any civil lawsuit that arises from an accidental injury within a specific time frame. These time limits vary from state to state. In Missouri, the statute of limitations for such injuries is five years.
Time limits for claims that involve children younger than 18 years could be longer. If for example, your 17-year-old child suffers injuries in a crash that involved a drunk driver, the clock for the statute of limitations for a civil claim by your child may only start ticking when he or she turns 18, extending the limit for filing a claim related to those injuries by one year.
Exceptions to the rule
The discovery of harm rule allows exceptions to the statute of limitations. If you only discover the long-term consequences of an injury after some time, the court may grant the discovery date to be the start of the statute of limitations. However, you will have to justify your claim for the delay to the court, and the reason for the delay must be reasonable.
For instance, you underwent surgery a year ago and have suffered chronic unexplained pain ever since, despite multiple consultations with physicians about it. The cause of the pain only becomes evident during another surgical procedure when the surgeon discovers that a temporary bandage remained in a body cavity during the previous procedure. Because you discovered the error of the original surgeon a year later, the court will likely allow the statute of limitations to start at the time of the discovery.
The statute of limitations for medical malpractice
In Missouri, the time limit for filing a medical malpractice claim is two years. However, in cases such as the one described above, the court may allow the time limit to start on the date of discovery rather than the date on which the error occurred. That exception differs by state, but in Missouri, the maximum extension is 10 years.
However, if the court determines that you should have – or could have – discovered the cause of the pain sooner, or sought no medical treatment despite the discomfort, the lawsuit might be barred if it is filed after the two-year limit.
Resources are available
Personal injury lawsuits can be a confusing and complicated area of the law. For this reason, you might be best off discussing the circumstances that caused your injuries with an experienced Missouri personal injury attorney. This can help you avoid a situation in which you take action and then learn that the statute of limitations had already expired, preventing you from recovering the damages you sustained.