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Tolling of the Statute of Limitations

Accident in Anchorage

If you are injured in a personal injury case as a result of a car accident or medical malpractice it is important to understand a tolling of the statute of limitations; as this can make the difference between recovering from an accident or not.

It is possible for a victim to be informed that a statute of limitations has passed from an insurance company or defendant with regards to their personal injury case. However, if the statute of limitations is tolled, there may still be time to file a lawsuit.

Every state has a different set of time limits whereby action must be taken on a case in order to avoid being prohibited from taking legal action. Such time limits are referred to as statute of limitations. They are different time limits for personal injury cases as well as other types of cases including criminal laws or contract cases. Different types of statutes of limitations may apply to cases involving a personal injury case. For example, there may be a specific time limit to bring forth a case involving a medical malpractice case that is different from a slip-and-fall case. By standard, the state of Alaska provides for a three-year period as the statute of limitations in personal injury cases.

If the statute of limitations is exceeded, the plaintiff is generally barred from bringing forth a case. Therefore, even if the plaintiff has a viable personal injury claim he or she will not be able to recover if the lawsuit is not filed within the relevant time frame.

However, there are exceptions to this rule whereby the statute of limitations may be extended or tolled. When a statute of limitations is said to be tolled it is legally suspended. This basically means that the clock is stopped for a specific time period. As a result, this extends the amount of time that a plaintiff has to bring forth a case. There are a number of reasons for the suspension of the statute of limitations, some of these reasons include the following:

  • Discovery of harm- the statute of limitations begins after the plaintiff has learnt about the actual harm or reasonably should have learned about it. For example, if a plaintiff underwent a medical procedure and a surgeon left a piece of gauze inside him and only discovers this 4 years later; the statute of limitations only begins when the plaintiff actually learned about the mistake or had the opportunity to learn about it.
  • Fraudulent concealment - this happens when a defendant engages in a misleading or deceptive action in an attempt to conceal a plaintiff's recognizing a possible cause of action. For example, where a defendant directly lies to a victim or fakes documents to try to cause the victim to be unaware of the cause of action. However, if the defendant can establish that the cause of action could have still been discovered despite of fraudulent concealment had the plaintiff exercised due diligence, the defendant may have a good defence against the victim.
  • Disability - this may be some reason why a person cannot bring forth a cause of action. For example, a victim is a minor or not legally permitted to bring forth a case.

For legal advice speak to Anchorage law firms handling personal injury matters.

Categories: Firm News