What is a Statute of Limitations? The Collins Law Firm/ Naperville, Illinois Personal Injury Lawyers

What is a Statute of Limitations? The Collins Law Firm/ Naperville, Illinois Personal Injury Lawyers

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What is a statute of limitations? We’ve
all heard that term, what does it mean? Well it’s simple to say, but it can be
very, very complicated to actually apply to a certain legal situation. Simply, a
statute of limitations is the period of time, usually expressed in terms of a
number of years, that you have to file a legal claim. Now what’s very important to
understand about that number of years is if you go past it, if you don’t file your
claim within that prescribed period of time, you have lost the right to file it
forever. So in other words, the consequences are very, very significant.
Now so if you’ve been in a car accident for example or you found that your
property, your home is contaminated, or maybe you feel you’ve been injured as a
result of a surgery, you believe possibly medical malpractice has occurred, or
you’re involved in a contract and you feel the other party to that contract
may have violated it. Once you feel that you have been injured or you have a
significant question about whether you have been injured because of someone
else’s misconduct, including negligence, your statute of limitations has started
to run. Now let me say that again because it’s very, very important once you even
suspect that you may have been injured because of the negligence or other
misconduct of another person or a company, your clock is ticking, your
statute of limitations is running. And the purpose of a
statute of limitations is not to say that if you feel you’ve been injured by
somebody else you have to run out right away and file a lawsuit, no, the whole
point of the statute of limitations is to give you a period of time to hire a
lawyer, and to do an investigation into whether or not you have a case that you
can file in a court of law and to win. Now that may sound simple enough, but
sometimes it can be difficult to know whether you have been injured. Here’s an
example we see a lot at our law firm, someone is told for example by the
Environmental Protection Agency that there is a contaminant in their
groundwater, a chemical, but maybe government also says the concentrations
of that chemical aren’t high enough to injure your health so if we stop the
story right there, have you been injured? Government is telling you that the
chemical can’t hurt you, have you been injured? You may well have been injured.
You have a dangerous chemical in your water that may damage your property, even
if it doesn’t injure your health. At that moment, that’s close enough, there is a
suspicion of injury your clock is probably ticking. Let’s say you’ve been
through a surgery or another medical procedure and it didn’t come out quite
right the way that you expected or the way that you were told it might come out,
right? And so a couple of days or a couple weeks or a month after the
surgery, you’re not feeling right. Is your statute of limitations ticking? It might
well be. You should go see a lawyer. Remember, you’re going to see the lawyer
under those kinds of circumstances where you have doubt you have
concern but not certainty about whether you’ve been injured, you’re going to see
the lawyer, not to file a lawsuit right away, but to find out whether you have a
viable legal claim. An investigation may be required, for example in the case of
environmental contamination, your lawyer may have to hire a scientific expert to
find out if that level of contamination is enough that it can cause injury to
health. The example of the surgery that perhaps didn’t go as well as you had
hoped, your lawyer may need to hire a medical expert to decide, to help you
understand, whether medical negligence has occurred. So this is why there is a
statute of limitations, there’s that period of time for you and your lawyer to
conduct an investigation, but the important thing to recognize is once you
have that suspicion, you should assume your clock is ticking. Don’t delay, go see
a lawyer, and your lawyer can help you understand how much time you really have
to file a claim and most importantly whether you have a claim in the first
place.

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