While it may seem unfair to have a case dismissed on a technicality, especially one involving serious injuries, it could happen if you take too long to file a lawsuit. Don’t let this happen to you. It is imperative to take action to protect the viability of your claim.
What Is a Statute of Limitations?
A statute of limitations is a type of federal or state law that provides the deadline within which you must settle or file a lawsuit. If you fail to meet the deadline, you will lose your right to pursue your claim. Courts are generally not given the authority to extend a statute of limitations.
However, in certain limited circumstances, the law may give you some extra time. The best thing you can do is talk to an attorney who can confirm the statute of limitations for a product liability claim. Please contact a Washington product liability attorney at Brett McCandlis Brown & Conner to fully answer the question, How long do you have to file a product liability lawsuit?
Purpose of a Statute of Limitations
A statute of limitations protects both plaintiffs and defendants. Evidence can disappear or become more expensive and challenging to gather over time. Additionally, memories fade the longer you wait to bring the claim. You or important witnesses can forget key details, and defense counsel can use that fact to oppose your case. From a defendant’s perspective, it would be unfair to expect them to defend a claim if a decade or more passes from the date of the injury.
What Is the Product Liability Statute of Limitations in Washington?
Washington law sets a three-year statute of limitations for product liability cases. The statute of limitations starts from the date when you discovered or should have discovered that a product injured you. You are most likely out of luck if you miss the three-year window to file your claim.
This is why it is critical that you quickly contact a product liability lawyer to determine if you have a claim. While you may have up to three years to file a claim, waiting too long could prevent you from presenting your best case.
Even if you can file your product liability case in federal court, you will not likely be able to apply a longer statute of limitations. The state law will supply the applicable statute of limitations unless your claim involves a federal question. There is no general federal product liability statute of limitations. Therefore, you should speak with a product liability attorney once you believe you may have a product liability claim. They can explain these complexities to you.
Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations for Product Liability
Washington state statutes give a consumer three years from the date of an injury to file a product liability lawsuit. You must file most product liability claims by this deadline, or your recovery will be barred. But your case could fall into one of the relatively narrow exceptions discussed below.
The clock on the statute of limitations can be stopped—or tolled—if you could not reasonably discover your injuries within the statute of limitations period. This is known as the “discovery rule.”
The discovery rule can extend the statute of limitations for plaintiffs in cases where the plaintiff does not reasonably discover the claim in time to meet the deadline.
In such situations, the three-year time frame would begin once you discover or reasonably should have discovered the injury. This exception may be especially applicable in cases involving harmful chemicals or pharmaceuticals. Under these circumstances, individuals may be exposed for many years before becoming ill.
The discovery rule tolls the statute of limitations until the injury manifests. Plaintiffs can still bring the claims after the expiration of the three-year statute of limitations if they can show that they did not know and could not have reasonably known that they suffered an injury during the limitations period.
Defendant Is Not in Washington or Attempts to Evade Justice
Washington law tolls the statute of limitations when the defendant is absent from the state or is in hiding. The law tolls the statute of limitations until the person returns to the state or emerges from hiding when a defendant is missing from the state of Washington or concealed.
Minors, Incompetent, Disabled, or in Prison
A person’s age, incompetence, disability, or imprisonment on a criminal charge before sentencing can toll the statute of limitations until the person’s limitation is resolved.
The law does not hold minors to the same deadlines as other plaintiffs. In the case of a minor who suffers an injury, the individual may have three years from the 18th birthday to file a claim under Washington law.
Extension for Plaintiff’s Death
The statute of limitations tolls if a person dies before the expiration of the statute of limitations. The right to sue survives the death of the injured victim. If a defective product caused the victim’s death, the tolling provision for death would allow the estate an additional year to file suit. In the case of a product liability suit, the estate can file a claim to recover damages the deceased person could have claimed as a result of the defective product.
Length of Time Product Sellers Are Subject to Liability
The time to bring most product liability actions against a seller is limited to the “useful safe life” of the product. If the harm occurred more than 12 years after the product’s delivery, the law presumes the damage happened after the useful safe life expired. A plaintiff may rebut this presumption by evidence to the contrary.
In any case, a claim must be brought within three years of the time the victim discovered or should have discovered the injury and the cause of the injury.
Don’t Forfeit Your Right to Recover Compensation After an Injury
The attorneys at Brett McCandlis Brown & Conner possess over 40 years of legal experience representing injured victims. We have assisted clients in recovering the compensation they deserve. Whether we serve as your counselor, advocate, negotiator, or litigator, you can trust that we are here to help you.
As you concentrate on your physical and emotional recovery, our lawyers will focus on your financial recovery.
Contact our office today to find out if we can help you following your injury from a defective product. Our attorneys can provide a free consultation to help you understand whether you have a viable claim and explain the statute of limitations for a product liability matter. Speak with a product liability attorney from Brett McCandlis Brown & Conner PLLC today. Schedule a free consultation by calling or contacting us online.