A statute of limitation gives injured residents a certain window within which they must file a personal injury lawsuit. If a lawsuit is not commenced within these time frames, then generally the injured person (the would-be plaintiff in a personal injury case) is prohibited from thereafter attempting to file a lawsuit to obtain compensation. For this reason, it is highly advisable to speak with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible after an injury accident and not wait until the last minute to file your case.
Rhode Island statute of limitations
Most personal injury cases premised on a theory of negligence must be brought within three years of the date of injury or wrongful death, the statute of limitations in Rhode Island. There are certain circumstances, however, where the statute of limitations’ “clock” will stop running, effectively giving the plaintiff more time within which to file his or her lawsuit. These include situations where:
- No reasonable person in the plaintiff’s position could have known he or she was injured on the date the injury accident occurred;
- The plaintiff was a minor (under the age of 18 years) on the date of the injury accident;
- The plaintiff was mentally incompetent at the time of the injury accident;
Statute of limitation issues can be difficult to analyze and litigate: that is why most personal injury attorneys prefer to file a lawsuit well in advance of the deadline imposed by the statute of limitations. However, if there are special circumstances in your case that resulted in you seeking legal counsel many months or even years after the injury accident, be sure to discuss these circumstances with an experienced personal injury lawyer right away. A knowledgeable and experienced attorney can help you attempt to argue that the statute of limitations has not run on your claim, even if it has been three or more years since you were injured.
RI Supreme Court decision
“Because plaintiff did not retain the services of a highway safety expert until June 5, 1992 (approximately one month before the expiration of the statute of limitations) and because this expert did not render his opinion to plaintiff until eighteen days after the expiration of the statute does nothing to toll the running of the statute.See Ashey v. Kupchan, 618 A.2d at 1269 (“[w]e agree with the trial justice that the date that plaintiffs tracked down an expert to confirm their suspicions of negligence is not the operative discovery date”). A potential plaintiff is under an affirmative duty to investigate diligently a claim and is not allowed to use the discovery rule to postpone indefinitely the running of the statute of limitations. See Pari v. Corwin, 620 A.2d 86, 87 (R.I. 1993); Dionne v. Baute, 589 A.2d at 835.” 641 A.2d 332 (1994) Donna M. BENNER et al. v. J.H. LYNCH & SONS, INC., MJD Construction Corp. and the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, Dante E. Boffi, Jr., Director. Supreme Court of Rhode Island. May 12, 1994. Edward P. Manning, Jr., Providence, for plaintiff. Rebecca Tedford Partington, Sp. Asst. Atty. Gen., Edward Moses, John R. Mahoney, Asquith, Mahoney & Robinson, Providence, for defendant. OPINION WEISBERGER, Acting Chief Justice.
The statute of limitations is a legal concept that sets a time limit on when a person can bring a lawsuit or legal claim for a particular type of offense or harm. The purpose of the statute of limitations is to encourage the timely resolution of legal disputes and prevent claims from being pursued indefinitely. Once the statute of limitations for a particular claim has expired, the injured party typically loses the right to sue for that specific matter.
The specific time limits for statutes of limitations can vary significantly depending on the type of claim and the jurisdiction (i.e., the laws of the particular state or country). Some common examples of claims with statutes of limitations include personal injury, contract disputes, property damage, and criminal offenses.
In some situations, the deadline for bringing a lawsuit may be extended, but this is not common and typically requires specific circumstances or legal mechanisms:
- Tolling: Statutes of limitations can be “tolled” or temporarily suspended in certain situations. Common reasons for tolling include the plaintiff being a minor at the time of the incident, the defendant being absent from the jurisdiction, or the plaintiff’s incapacity due to mental illness. In such cases, the clock stops running for the duration of the tolling event.
- Discovery Rule: In some cases, the statute of limitations clock may not start running until the plaintiff discovers (or reasonably should have discovered) the injury or harm. This is particularly relevant in cases involving medical malpractice or toxic exposure, where the harm may not become evident until years later.
- Fraud or Concealment: If a defendant fraudulently conceals their wrongdoing, the statute of limitations may be extended. Once the plaintiff discovers the fraud or concealment, the clock starts running from that point.
- Continuous Violations: In some cases, where a defendant’s actions are part of a continuous and ongoing harm (e.g., environmental pollution), the statute of limitations may be extended to cover the entire period during which the harm occurs.
- Agreements and Waivers: In some situations, parties may enter into agreements that extend or waive the statute of limitations. However, such agreements must meet legal requirements and be enforceable.
It’s important to note that the rules governing statutes of limitations can be complex and vary from one jurisdiction to another. Additionally, the specific circumstances of a case will determine whether an extension is applicable. If you believe you have a legal claim but are concerned about the statute of limitations, it is advisable to consult with an attorney who can provide guidance specific to your situation and jurisdiction.
Legal Notice per Rules of Professional Responsibility:
The Rhode Island Supreme Court licenses all lawyers and attorneys in the general practice of law, but does not license or certify any lawyer / attorney as an expert or specialist in any field of practice. While this firm maintains joint responsibility, most cases of this type are referred to other attorneys for principle responsibility.