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Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Lawsuits in Washington

After a personal injury accident, like a slip and fall injury, dog bite, or car accident, the clock starts ticking for the injury victim. While the victim is busy handling doctor visits, lost days from work, and dealing with the insurance company, the time limit for filing a lawsuit in the state of Washington is closing in. Filing a personal injury lawsuit after the statute of limitations has passed could mean your claim is denied and you will be left paying for the accident out-of-pocket.

The statute of limitation is the maximum time limit you have to file a legal claim after an accident. In a personal injury case, the statute of limitations is the time limit for seeking damages in a civil lawsuit. The specific statute of limitations depends on the type of claim. This time limit can also depend on the specific defendants, age of the injury victim, and how long it took to discover the injury.

Statute of Limitations in Washington Personal Injury Claims

Under the Revised Code of Washington section 4.1.6.080, an action for an injury to the person shall be commenced within three years. This applies to most personal injury claims, including:

Three years may sound like a long time, but if you intend to bring a lawsuit against the defendants for damages, you should not wait until the last minute. It takes time to investigate the accident, determine who may be at fault, identify all the potential defendants, and serve notice on the defendants before the statute of limitations expires. The more time passes after an injury accident, the more difficult it can be to gather evidence in support of your case.

The court cannot generally extend the statute of limitations. Even if you missed the deadline by one day, your claim may be denied. It is a good idea to talk to your attorney as soon as possible after an injury to make sure your claim is filed in time.

In some cases, filing an earlier claim against the defendant can help ensure there is enough money available to compensate the victim for their injuries. If the defendant is involved in multiple personal injury claims, they may not end up with enough money to fully compensate everyone. An earlier claim may be more likely to be awarded full damages than a later claim.

Statute of Limitations When the Injury Was Discovered Later

In some cases, an injury may not be discovered until long after the accident occurred. This often comes up in medical malpractice or products liability cases. Under the discovery rule, the statute of limitations is usually tolled until the accident is discovered or should have been discovered.

For example, a patient has surgery and the doctor leaves a surgical tool inside the patient. The patient complains of pain for years to come but doctors can't find the cause. Finally, five years after the surgery, an X-ray reveals a surgical tool that was left behind in the victim's body. The patient could not have known about the accident until it was discovered years later.

However, depending on the situation, the statute of limitations after discovery could be shortened. In Washington, medical malpractice claims have a three-year statute of limitations. However, if the injury is discovered later, the discovery rule allows for a one-year statute of limitations from the date of discovery, or whichever date comes later.

Statute of Limitations in a Wrongful Death Claim

When an accident resulted in the death of a loved one, certain family members may still be able to file a claim to hold the responsible party accountable. Like other personal injury cases, wrongful death cases generally have a three-year statute of limitations. However, the statute of limitations begins to run the date the victim died.

For example, if someone was involved in a serious automobile accident, the date of the accident would start the clock for a personal injury claim. However, if the accident victim died a week later, then the statute of limitations would toll for a wrongful death claim from the date of the victim's death.

Statute of Limitations When Victim is a Child

When the victim of a personal injury accident is a child, the statute of limitations is generally tolled until the child's 18th birthday. This means that for most personal injury accidents, a minor victim would have until their 21st birthday to file a personal injury lawsuit.

For example, Billy is a child who was bitten by a neighbor's dog during Billy's 8th birthday party in 2008. Billy suffered serious injuries and permanent scarring. The statute of limitations would not begin to run until Billy's 18th birthday in 2018. From that date, Billy would have three years to file a lawsuit, or until 2021. This would be 13 years after the original accident.

Statute of Limitations for Assault or Intentional Harm

Most personal injury claims involve accidents where someone was careless or negligent and ended up hurting another person. However, the statute of limitations is different for injuries caused by intentional actions. This could include assault and battery.

Under Revised Code of Washington section 4.1.6.100, an action should be filed within two years for intentional injuries, including:

  • Libel,
  • Slander,
  • Assault,
  • Battery, or
  • False imprisonment.

Claims Against the State, County, City, or Local Government

Claims against the government are treated differently than claims against other defendants. In Washington, before an injury victim can file a claim against the government, they must first file a tort claim notice. The injury victim must then wait a minimum amount of time before they can file a lawsuit in court.

Under Revised Code of Washington section 4.92.100, all claims for damages arising out of tortious conduct against state, or state officers, employees, or volunteers, must be presented to the office of risk management. The claim must be made using the standard tort form, which is posted on the Department of Enterprise Services' website. This form can be submitted online, through email, fax, mail, or in person.

In most cases, claims against city, county, or local government entities in Washington follow a similar notice of claim process. Talk to your attorney about the requirements for filing a personal injury claim against government entities in your case to make sure your claim is not denied.

After filing the claim form, the injury victim must wait 60 days before he or she can file a personal injury lawsuit in court.

Clark County Personal Injury Attorney

If you suffered an injury in Washington, you should contact a lawyer as soon as possible to make sure you have time to file your claim. If you wait too long, your claim may be barred by the statute of limitations. Quinn Posner at Posner Law Office, P.C. will watch out for you and fight for your rights. Quinn Posner represents injured clients and their families in Camas, Washougal, and Clark County. Call today for a free personal injury accident consultation.

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