If you have been injured in an accident, you cannot sit on your rights.
Instead, Washington gives injured victims a limited amount of time to sue.
This deadline is set by the state’s “statutes of limitations,” which are set by the state’s legislature. The amount of time you have to sue will depend on how you were injured.
Did Someone Intentionally Injure You?
Some personal injuries are inflicted intentionally, through assault or battery. In Washington, you have two years from the date of the tort to bring a lawsuit.
Were You Injured by Someone’s Negligence?
Unlike assault and battery, someone injures you negligently when they do so unintentionally. In particular, their lack of reasonable care injures you, as in car accidents or slip and fall cases. Under RCW 4.16.080, you have three years to bring a lawsuit from the date of your injury.
Were You Injured by a Defective Product?
RCW 7.72.060(3) sets a three-year statute of limitation for products liability cases. The statute starts running from the date you discovered or should have discovered that you were injured by a product.
What if My Injuries Were Slow to Develop?
The clock can be stopped—or tolled—if you could not reasonably discover your injuries within the statute of limitations period. This is called the “discovery rule.”
For example, you might have taken defective pills that slowly cause cancer. You might not notice a tumor for six years. In this situation, it is unreasonable to expect you to discover the injury within the statutory period.
In most cases, however, injuries should be apparent within a few days, and you should not rely on the discovery rule. Instead, reach out to a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.
What if I File after the Deadline Passes?
In this scenario, the defendant can ask the judge to toss your case because you waited too long to file suit. Washington judges will absolutely throw a case out of court for violating the statute of limitations, which means you won’t receive compensation for your injuries.
What are the Exceptions to the Washington Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Claims?
There are some limited exceptions to Washington’s personal injury statute of limitations. While the large majority of claims must be filed by the deadlines listed above, it is possible that your case could fall into one of these relatively narrow exceptions. Specifically, the most notable exceptions to the state’s personal injury statute of limitations include:
- Underage Victim: Minors are not held to the same statutory deadlines as are other plaintiffs. As a general rule, the statute of limitations clock will not run until the plaintiff’s 18th birthday. If you were injured in an accident while under the age of 18, you may have additional time to file a claim even if three years have passed since the initial accident.
- Evasion of Justice: If a defendant takes intentional actions to attempt to evade justice, the statute of limitations clock may be temporarily paused. As an example, if a defendant leaves the state of Washington in an effort to avoid being served with a personal injury complaint, the statute of limitations will generally stop running until the defendant returns to the jurisdiction.
- Discovery Rule: The clock can be stopped—or tolled—if you could not reasonably discover your injuries within the statute of limitations period. This is called the “discovery rule.” For example, you might have taken defective pills that slowly cause cancer. You might not notice a tumor for six years. In this situation, it is unreasonable to expect you to discover the injury within the statutory period. In most cases, however, injuries should be apparent within a few days, and you should not rely on the discovery rule. Instead, reach out to a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.
If you believe that your case falls into one of the Washington statute of limitations personal injury exceptions, it is imperative that you take immediate action to protect the viability of your claim. Whenever possible, avoid relying on these exceptions. Call an experienced Yakima, WA personal injury lawyer right away. Your lawyer will help you take the appropriate measures to file a claim — so that you can preserve your rights and obtain full and fair financial compensation.
Why Do We Have a Statute of Limitations?
On the one hand, it seems unfair to dismiss a case for some technicality. After all, if you were injured and someone was to blame, they shouldn’t profit simply because you took too long to file a lawsuit.
However, the statute of limitations protects both defendants and plaintiffs. For one thing, evidence has a way of disappearing the more time passes. It’s unfair to expect a defendant to defend himself if 10 years pass from the date of the injury. By that point, witnesses have long disappeared, and other evidence is stale. Plaintiffs also benefit from pursuing cases in a timely manner, since their memories will be fresh.
Furthermore, Washington’s courts want to resolve cases with the best available evidence. The more time passes; the less confident judges can be that the best evidence is being presented.
Speak with a Yakima Personal Injury Lawyer Now
If you have been injured in an accident, do not delay seeking out legal counsel. Instead, pick up the phone and call Kapuza Lighty, PLLC to begin the process of analyzing your case. To schedule your free consultation, please contact us as soon as possible.