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Latent Injuries and the Statute of Limitations

Filing Deadlines and Latent Injuries

The laws regarding statutes of limitations are generally clear as to the time period that you have to file a lawsuit, and absent several exceptions, the statute of limitations limits your period to sue to two years in personal injury cases in Pennsylvania. In some cases, people are unaware that they have been injured until months after their accident or use of an unsafe product. Therefore, what happens when you have a latent injury that did not become apparent until later on?

What Is a Latent Injury?

Sometimes, you may not know that you have suffered an injury. For example, you may have been in a car accident and walked away from it seemingly unscathed. However, your back or neck could start exhibiting pain a long time after the accident, and you can tie the injury to the accident. Alternatively, you may have been hurt by a product or medical device, but the harm occurred several years after you purchased the product or had the device implanted. In these situations, you did not have reason to know right away that you were harmed and should not have been expected to file a suit when your injuries hadn’t yet become apparent.

The Rule for Latent Injuries

In these cases, the "should have known" argument is what the court will consider when the defendant tries to have your case dismissed. If you had no way of knowing that you were hurt, the statute of limitations begins from the time that you actually realized that you were hurt. There are some limitations, however. For example, you cannot be willfully blind and close your eyes and pretend there was no injury. In other words, if you felt pain for years but did not go to the doctor to get the injury examined, the court may dismiss your claim as untimely.

How the Courts See It

The statute of limitations is an interesting legal rule. It is generally a case where, if you are late, your case will be dismissed. However, courts will seemingly go out of their way to avoid an application of this rule that seems rigid or unfair. This is especially true when it comes to latent injuries. Courts do not want a ruling to deprive plaintiffs of their legal rights when they could not have known about their damages. This is especially true in product liability claims where the defects take time to harm the victims. Courts do not want to make an unfair decision and will generally be sympathetic to claims of latent injury when it comes to time deadlines to file the case.

What You Can Do

It is vital that if you feel that you’re experiencing the effects of an injury to get a medical evaluation immediately. You want to start documenting the legal basis of your case as soon as possible. While two years seems like an ample amount of time, drafting and documenting a complaint that can survive a motion to dismiss takes some time. In addition, plaintiffs may have an inclination to procrastinate. The sooner you start to document your case, the stronger your initial claim will look to the court. This starts by beginning to take action the moment that you realize that you may have been injured in an accident or by a product. In addition, you should consult with an Allentown accident lawyer as soon as possible. The sooner that you begin preparing your claim, the more of a chance you have to file a strong case within the time limit. The deadline is hard and fast if the court thinks that you should have known about the injury. Metzger & Kleiner’s Allentown accident lawyers can help you from the beginning of your case and will advise you about the right time to file your claim. Call us today at (610) 435-7400 in the Lehigh Valley to begin the process of receiving financial compensation for your injuries.

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