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The discovery rule, and other ways to extend a limitations period

On Behalf of | Jul 6, 2021 | Personal Injury

Each state has a statute of limitations, or timeframe, in which the victim of a personal injury may file a claim or lawsuit for compensation from the at-fault party. States implement these laws to ensure that the evidence of a claim remains relevant and vital, and to prevent the constant threat that the injured party will file a lawsuit long after the incident occurs.

According to FindLaw, the statute of limitations on personal injury lawsuits in Georgia is two years. If damage to personal property occurs, a plaintiff has up to four years to file a claim for compensation. Georgia adheres pretty strictly to these rules. However, it does allow for some exceptions. The American Bar Association explores the four main ways an injured party may extend the limitations period.

The statutory discovery rule

Per the statutory discovery rule, the clock on a civil suit does not begin ticking until the injured party discovers evidence of the violation itself. Typically, this rule does not apply in personal injury cases.

The common law discovery rule

Many injuries sustained in motor vehicle accidents, slips and falls, or other adverse incidences appear months or even years after the causing accident. In many cases, the statute of limitations is already up by the time an accident victim discovers his or her harm. To account for this fact, lawmakers developed the common law discovery rule, which dictates that the clock does not start ticking until plaintiffs discover their injuries.

The equitable tolling rule

The equitable tolling and common law discovery rules usually work in conjunction with one another. A plaintiff may know that he or she has an injury but, whether due to lapsed time or circumstance, and despite exercising reasonable diligence, cannot decide whether the injury is the result of wrongdoing and, if it is, whether it was wrongdoing by the defendant.

The equitable estoppel rule

Also known as the fraudulent concealment rule, this rule is in place to account for those defendants who take steps to prevent injured parties from filing claims, such as through promises not to sue. The rule assumes that the plaintiff has an injury, discovered said injury and knows that the defendant’s wrongdoing is the cause of that injury.

While there are a few exceptions to the statutes of limitations in personal injury cases, injured parties should not risk forfeiting their claims by waiting too long to act. The best course of action is to consult with a lawyer as soon after discovering an injury as possible.

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