Preparing Your Case When You've Been Injured by a Defective Product
Timing is vital in any personal injury case. If you hurt yourself while using a dangerous product, you may have a claim for damages. It depends on whether you can prove that the consumer product was, in fact, defective in some way.
Unlike other types of personal injury cases, plaintiffs in defective products cases are not always sure when their injuries occurred. One of the most important things your lawyer needs to know is when you were injured. This is the case even in a lawsuit based on strict liability.
In many cases, the date of injury is apparent. In other defective product cases, the date of injury is less clear. This impacts the statute of limitations period. Depending on where you live, there are strict filing deadlines. Usually, you only have two or three years from the date of injury to file your lawsuit.
This article will discuss the factors that can impact the statute of limitations period. We will also explain the exceptions to the statute of limitations filing deadlines. Finally, this article will describe how an experienced product liability lawyer can protect your legal rights.
How Do You Determine the Filing Deadline?
Every state has laws dictating how much time you have to file your product liability lawsuit. These laws are called the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations usually starts on the day of your injury.
For example, in a car accident lawsuit, the clock starts on the day of your crash. In a malpractice case, the clock starts on the day the plaintiff discovers the malpractice occurred.
The good news is that you won't have to worry about this if you hire a personal injury attorney. As long as you retain them early in the process, they will have ample time to file your lawsuit before the expiration of the statute of limitations period.
The Statute of Limitations Period Usually Begins on the Date of the Injury
As explained above, the statute of limitations typically starts on the date of your injury. However, sometimes you aren't sure when your injury occurred. This is often the case in lawsuits involving medical devices or dangerous drugs. Many months or years may have passed before you realize you're sick or injured.
The statute of limitations is usually two to four years for cases involving dangerous or defective products, marketing defects, and breach of an implied warranty. The statute period begins either on the date of your injury or when you discovered the injury.
The manufacturer, distributor, retailer, wholesaler, or insurance company may argue that you should've discovered the injury sooner than you did. If this happens, your attorney may have to hire experts to help prove that your discovery of the injury was reasonable.
What Happens if You Miss the Statute of Limitations Deadline?
If you don't file your lawsuit within the statute of limitations period, the judge will dismiss your claim. The defendant will file a motion to dismiss, or the court clerk will see that you missed the filing deadline.
Unfortunately, you cannot sue the defendant if you miss the deadline. You'll lose any claim to damages that may have existed. This is why you should contact an attorney immediately after discovering your injury. As with many laws, there are exceptions to the rule.
Statute of Limitations Exceptions
Over the years, the courts have created exceptions to the statute of limitations requirement. These are few and far between.
The exceptions to the statute of limitations include the following:
- If the victim is under the age of eighteen when the injury occurs, the clock will start on their eighteenth birthday.
- If the plaintiff is mentally incompetent, the statute of limitations will start or resume when the plaintiff becomes competent again.
- If the defendant is hiding or evading service, the court will take that into consideration.
With wrongful death cases, the statute of limitations does not start until the victim dies. However, if the victim or their loved one discovers their illness or injury before death, the clock will begin at the time of discovery.
Secondary Time Limits
Some states have time limits other than the statute of limitations. These secondary time limits, or statutes of repose, impose absolute filing deadlines. For example, some states require you to file suit within ten or twelve years of purchasing a dangerous or defective product in product liability cases. Not every state has statutes of repose. In those states that have these laws, the time limits vary.
There is a difference between the statute of limitations period and the statute of repose deadline. The statute of limitations begins when you discover a defect or injury. This period is usually two to three years from the date of injury.
Statutes of repose, or secondary time limits, give an absolute maximum time to file suit. For example, imagine that you buy a lawnmower in 2020. You injured yourself using the lawnmower on January 1, 2022. The statute of limitations will start on January 1, 2022. But what if you don't notice a defect until January of 2032?
You are beyond the two to three-year statute of limitations period. You will have to check your state laws to see if there is a statute of repose. If there is, and it's for ten years, you will have lost your right to sue since it's been more than ten years since you bought the lawnmower.
How Can a Product Liability Attorney Help?
An injured person may be entitled to damages if they demonstrate that a product manufacturer, distributor, or other party injured you. However, it can be challenging to prove that a design defect or manufacturing defect exists. Even in a strict product liability case, you must prove that a product defect existed.
When you hire a product liability attorney, they'll gather the evidence to prove that something went wrong with the manufacturing process. Or they'll hire experts to prove a product design problem. If your lawyer files your case based on a lack of adequate warnings, your attorney will argue that there was an issue with the product's label.
Your lawyer will also help demonstrate that you suffered severe injuries while using the unsafe product. They will also submit sufficient proof to show what damages you suffered.
To contact an experienced product liability attorney, visit Findlaw's attorney directory. Doing so sooner rather than later is a good idea, as the last thing you want to do is miss the statute of limitations period.
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Contact a qualified product liability attorney to make sure your rights are protected.