Statutes of Limitations are unimportant and essentially irrelevant to most of us, until they aren’t. When a loved one is treated unethically in the hospital, medical practice statutes suddenly become valuable information. Since most of the public is unaware of how the Statutes of Limitations work in their state, we looked to our legal resources to give us more information and clarify how the statutes work.

1) Why the Statutes of Limitations vary state to state

Attorney Shane Fischer of Shane E. Fischer, P.A explains:

“It varies based upon the dates each legislature sets. Under our Constitution, the federal government has certain powers (maintain a military, establish treaties with foreign countries, establish an income tax code, etc.) while the states have great leeway in making their own laws. These laws include laws determining the time period for filing a lawsuit. This is why there is no national statute of limitations for claims filed under state law.”

Each state has their own legislature with the power to designate their own laws. Therefore, there is no national guide to follow. In fact, some states statutes very drastically from others.

2) Difference between Statute of Repose vs. Limitation

Attorney Andrew Drazen of Doster Ullom, LLC defines the two:

A statute of repose sets a “final cutoff” date by which a claim must be filed. And while tolling may save your claim, courts are typically much stricter in enforcing statutes of repose. So whereas, a SOL would be “3 years … unless something tolls the time limit,” a statute of repose would be “10 years … period.”

To sum it up, a Statute of Repose is typically a final cut-off date, but exceptions are occassionally made to the Statute of Limitation.

3) Why you need an attorney

Lawyer Shane Fischer of Shane E. Fischer, P.A explains the benefits of hiring a lawyer when trying to navigate a personal injury case:

“Hiring a lawyer familiar with the SOL appropriate in their case is the best way, because lawyers keep up with changes in the law, including the SOL.”

The general public does not keep up with evolving Statute of Limitation laws. There is no reason for us to be mindful of these laws, until you file a claim. When a lawsuit is on the line, it is best to put your trust in an attorney with knowledge of your particular case.

4) How to learn more

Attorney Senen Garcia of the SG Law Group shares some practical advice to learn more about your state’s Statute of Limitations:

“Regarding public awareness, most states have their statutes online which is normally where the limitations are listed. The best way for the public to be made aware of the limitations is to look up the statutes online regarding their cause of action or speak with an attorney in their home state or the state where they hope to prosecute the action.”

In addition to hiring an attorney, general statute information for your state can typically be accessed online. This will give you a good idea if it is still possible to file your claim or reasonable to spend the money to hire an attorney.

5) Exceptions

Attorney Michael Helfand of illustrates the importance of abiding by the Statute of Limitations if you want your claim to be valid:

“There are very few exceptions. If you are in a coma, that might toll the statute. In sexual abuse cases, if you can show a repressed memory (which is hard to do), you might get around the statute of limitations. But in general it’s not easy. For example, in medical malpractice cases for adults, you can never go farther than four years to sue.”

While Helfand is speaking from his experience in Illinois, it is safe to say that courts take Statutes of Limitations and Statutes of Repose very seriously, and we must pay serious attention to these laws in order to file successful lawsuits.