Can I Sue for an Old Injury?
Wondering whether you can sue for an old injury may fill you with uncertainty and confusion. The answer depends on several factors.
A personal injury lawyer in Phoenix can explain your legal rights concerning old injuries and help you pursue justice and compensation for new ones. A lawyer can make the difference between a successful settlement or lawsuit and a missed opportunity.
The Concept of Old Injuries
Old injuries, in the legal context, mean any physical harm that occurred a long time ago but left the victim with adverse effects. Old injuries can also mean a case in which the victim has only recently discovered its direct connection to a specific event or person’s negligence.
These might include injuries from road accidents, workplace incidents, or medical procedures that did not have immediate visible consequences but have manifested with time in chronic pain, a disability, or other health complications.
Complexity in Old Injury Claims
Complexity in old injury claims arises in several ways.
Those can include:
- A lack of immediate evidence: Evidence is generally much easier to collect immediately after an accident. Collecting it weeks, months, or even years later can prove much more complicated.
- An expired statute of limitations: The statute of limitations determines how long you have to file an injury claim in each jurisdiction. While exceptions exist to the statute of limitations, it is much harder to file a claim for an old injury after it has passed.
- The challenge of proving the cause of your injuries: When injuries have multiple causes, it is harder to establish that they occurred because of a specific event.
With the help of a legal professional and proper documentation, you can build a strong case and obtain compensation for the damages suffered due to these old injuries.
Compensation for Old Injuries
When you file an old injury claim, talk to a lawyer to learn what you may need to include in your claim.
Common claims cover compensation for:
- Past medical costs related to your injury: You may have accumulated considerable medical bills while dealing with your losses and injuries.
- Future medical bills for treatment for your injuries: If you have recently discovered injuries that will need considerable treatment in the future, your medical bills can rise higher than you expect.
- Lost earnings: Talk to your lawyer about any time you may have missed at work due to your injuries or whether you may have to leave your profession because of those injuries.
- Your pain and suffering: Old injuries can cause considerable suffering as you deal with the aftermath. Talk to your lawyer about any physical pain and emotional suffering you have experienced.
Your lawyer can tell you all the details of compensation you can recover as part of an old injury claim.
The Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Claims
Depending on the jurisdiction, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims can range from one to six years, typically beginning from the date you discovered (or should have discovered) the injury. Some jurisdictions have additional laws that can extend the statute of limitations in cases where the victim could not reasonably have learned about the injury right away.
Speak with a lawyer who can guide you through the intricacies of the legal time frame.
Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations
While each state defines how long you have to file a claim after an injury, exceptions may exist to give you more time to file your case, even if you did not take immediate action after your injuries.
The courts may make an exception to the statute of limitations in cases of deliberate concealment, where the party responsible for the injury has taken steps to hide their negligence or wrongdoing. In such cases, the clock on the statute of limitations may not start ticking until the victim has discovered, or could reasonably have discovered, the concealment.
Injury to Minors
If the victim was a minor at the time of the injury, the statute of limitations may not begin until they reach the age of majority, or the court may extend the statute of limitations until the victim reaches adulthood.
Lack of Awareness
Sometimes, the conditions of an injury may not come to light until well after the initial event. You may not realize that you sustained injuries or will have long-term consequences because of them, especially if you did not seek immediate medical care after the incident.
Each jurisdiction has different rules and requirements regarding the statute of limitations. Consulting with a lawyer can provide you with more information about exceptions that could help extend the statute of limitations in your case.
Factors That Could Influence Your Ability to File a Claim for an Old Injury
Hire a personal injury lawyer to look at your specific case and the factors that could influence it to give you a better idea of whether you can sue for an old injury.
You lawyer may want to review:
1. Timely Discovery
If you can prove that you discovered the injury or its consequences recently and could not have discovered it sooner, you may still be able to file a lawsuit even after the standard statute of limitations period.
2. Tolling of the Statute of Limitations
In some cases, you can toll or pause the statute of limitations due to specific circumstances, such as the victim’s mental incapacity or the culprit’s absence from the jurisdiction. These intricacies can work as a game-changer in your case. Talk to a lawyer about any changes that could allow you to toll the statute of limitations.
3. Medical Records
Robust and transparent medical records can significantly influence your ability to file a claim. They serve as a testament to your injury, its consequences, and the timeline of its discovery and treatment. Your medical records can also offer essential insight into the cost of medical care or the likely long-term limitations caused by your injuries.
4. Expert Testimony
Expert testimony can help establish the cause of your injuries, especially in situations where the cause does not seem immediately apparent or the other party is disputing it. It can also assist in attributing your current health problems to the old injury. An expert witness can make a huge difference in your case. In many cases, your lawyer will already know a team of medical experts who can provide essential testimony allowing you to prove key details about your injuries.
5. Legal Representation
An experienced personal injury attorney can navigate the legal labyrinth of an old injury claim on your behalf. They can put together a compelling case, argue for exceptions to the statute of limitations, and ensure that your genuine claim for an old injury does not go unnoticed. With a lawyer on your side, you can feel much more confident about the outcome of your case.
The Process of Suing for an Old Injury
Filing a lawsuit for an old injury follows a structured legal process. An experienced personal injury lawyer can walk you through that process and give you a better idea of what to expect at each juncture.
Consultation With a Lawyer
Start by consulting a personal injury attorney who has experience dealing with old injury claims. Discuss your case in detail, provide them with medical records, and share any other relevant information you might have.
A lawyer can support you at each stage of the old injury claim process, ensuring you do not miss out on the compensation you deserve.
Your lawyer will investigate the facts surrounding your injury. This might require consulting medical experts, reviewing documents, or even hiring a private investigator. Sometimes, your lawyer may look deeper into the events that led to your accident, which may provide better insight into liability and how you can establish it.
Filing a Complaint
Once you and your lawyer have gathered all the facts, and your lawyer has determined that you have a valid case, they will officially file your lawsuit with the court. This process includes drafting a document, known as a complaint, outlining your legal argument, the details of the law the other party violated, and the damages you seek in compensation for the losses you experienced.
The accused will have a chance to respond to your lawsuit. Both sides will share information in a process called discovery. This could involve providing documents, answering written questions (interrogatories), or giving sworn testimony in a deposition. Both sides must have full information about the case to come to a settlement agreement that fits your needs.
Negotiation and Settlement
Most old injury cases end up resolved through a negotiated settlement, which helps avoid the uncertainty and costs of a trial. Your lawyer will negotiate with the other party on your behalf to reach a fair settlement. You may need to go through several rounds of negotiation before reaching a settlement agreement.
If you cannot reach a settlement agreement with the liable party, your case will proceed to trial. A judge or jury will determine whether the defendant bears liability for your injuries, and, if so, how much they should pay in damages.
Remember, every case is unique. The steps involved can vary according to the specifics of your case. A lawyer can guide you through each step of the process and provide you with a higher degree of confidence regarding your rights, what comes next, and the eventual resolution of your claim.
Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer for Help With Your Old Injury Case
If you have an old injury caused by the negligence of another party, and you want to seek compensation for the damages you have had to deal with all these years, having a lawyer on your side can prove essential to the process.
A lawyer can:
- Identify whether you have the right to file a claim, even though the initial statute of limitations in your claim may already have passed.
- Provide you with deeper insight into what compensation you can claim for your injuries.
- Collect evidence about your injuries and the accident itself.
- Put together a compelling claim that will establish the damages you have to deal with and your right to compensation.
- Negotiate with the liable party’s insurance company on your behalf.
- Fight for you if you must take your old injury claim to court.
Do not try to handle your old injury case on your own. This could cause you to run into frustrating walls as you deal with the insurance company and try to establish the damages you suffered and their cause. Instead, contact a personal injury lawyer with experience dealing with old injuries as soon after your accident as possible.