You find out that your disabled relative’s health problems were due to nursing home neglect that occurred two years earlier. You finally get around to suing the driver of the fender bender from three years ago. You buy a new house and love it like your firstborn. Then two years later you see a small crack in the foundation but pay it no mind. Two years after that the small crack has grown and will now take thousands of dollars to fix. What all these situations have in common is the statute of limitations.
The statute of limitations is a rule used by the court system that limits that amount of time someone has to bring a civil lawsuit for a past action. The reasoning for this is twofold. First, placing a time limit on filing is a practical matter that works to maintain fairness. Secondly, the filing time limit prevents a person from having a legal matter indefinitely hanging over their head. The specific amount of time to bring a case varies from state to state and by the type of case or injury.
In Massachusetts, most civil actions have a three year statute of limitations attached to them. The three year limitation applies to many cases, including those involving personal injury, slander, fraud and injury to personal property. While the statute of limitations does not prevent a plaintiff from initiating a civil lawsuit it does provide the defendant with a defense to the suit.
The statute of limitations is not an absolute rule and there are situations which may prevent a defendant from claiming it as a defense. In some cases a plaintiff does not learn of an injury until well after the statute of limitations has run out. In some such cases, plaintiffs may still be able to file a claim. All those who may have a claim can benefit from speaking about their case with an experienced attorney.