Many people have heard the term “statute of limitations” before, but not everyone knows what it means.  One of the goals of the civil justice system is to require people to quickly decide whether or not to exercise their rights to file a lawsuit.  The “statute of limitations” determines how long an individual has to file a lawsuit.  Many states have a two-year statute of limitations for personal injury claims.  That means that an individual has two years to file a lawsuit, or their claim expires and they are no longer allowed to sue.

Determining when a statute of limitations expires sounds easy, and in many cases it is.  If you’re hit by a drunk driver on January 1st of 2020, you’ll have until January 1st of 2022 to file a lawsuit.  Doesn’t take a law degree to figure that one out.  But how about this:

On January 1st of 2020, you begin taking medicine.  On April 1st, you begin experiencing side effects.  On May 1st you see a doctor about the side effects.  He orders some tests and on June 1st he determines that the side effects were caused by the drug.  On July 1st the FDA changes the label for the medicine to begin warning about the side effects, but no one tells you.  On August 1st, you see a commercial for a law firm like mine advertising about the drug.  So when does your two-year statute expire in that case?

That’s a tougher question.  Most states have adopted what’s called “the discovery rule” to answer it.  In a nutshell, the discovery rule provides that a statute of limitations begins to run when (a) a person knows he or she is injured, and (b) the person knows the cause of the injury was the wrongdoing of another.

Although my explanation of the discovery rule may make it sound easy, it often times isn’t.  So please don’t try and guess whether or not your statute of limitations has expired.  The only way to be sure is to consult with an attorney.  I’m happy to discuss your potential case with you, or you can no doubt find another attorney with Google or the Yellow Pages who will answer your questions.

Just remember that the clock is always ticking on your potential case.  If you wait too long, you may lose your right to file a lawsuit.   You can call me toll-free at the number above, or shoot me an e-mail at