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How Long do I Have to Initiate a Lawsuit Against a Nursing Home for a Patient Injury?
A. This depends on the laws of the state where the lawsuit would be filed with the understanding that you do not have an unlimited amount of time to file the lawsuit.
Your timeframe for filing a lawsuit is governed by something known as the statute of limitations. This is meant to protect possible defendants by protecting them against being sued many years after an incident has occurred. Generally, each state will have a statute of limitations for civil torts that constrict the timeframe in which a lawsuit can be filed. There is no special statute of limitations that exists only for nursing home injuries. Instead, the timeframe in which the suit can be filed would be the same as the statute of limitations for personal injury cases since a nursing home lawsuit would qualify as this type of case.
States have varying timeframes for their statutes of limitations. The average time that you would have to file a nursing home lawsuit would generally be two to three years. Some states have statutes of limitations as short as one year, while the longest period of statute of limitations is six years.
The question often arises as to when the statute of limitations begins to run. The short answer is when the plaintiff or their representatives knew or should have known about the injury. This is an important distinction to make. There may have been conduct occurring that caused the injury, but the statute of limitations does not necessarily involve when the conduct occurred, but rather when the actual injury occurred and when the family should have known about the injury.
If you miss this deadline, the nursing home will be able to get your case dismissed on the grounds that it is untimely. This is unless you can find an exception to the statute of limitations that would permit you to file the suit. For example, if the nursing home took steps to conceal the facts or the injury from you, that could be a valid exception. Alternatively, if there was some kind of fraud or deception involved that kept you from filing a claim, it could also extend the statute of limitation. Note, however, that the exceptions to the statute of limitations are limited.
Also note that the statute of limitations is a cutoff for when the lawsuit must be actually filed with the court. It is not the date by which you must make contact with the lawyer. Given that nursing home lawsuits take time to prepare, you should contact the attorney well in advance of the statute of limitations in order to file your best case with the court. The last thing that you want to do is to file a haphazard case with the court just to beat the statute of limitations. Then, you would run the risk of your case getting dismissed.
The court will generally not care what your excuse it for missing the deadline unless it involves some misconduct on the part of the nursing home. Thus, you should make sure to contact an attorney as soon as you know that your loved one has been injured at a nursing home as opposed to taking your time. This will also give you the option of being able to find an attorney in the event that the first attorney who you contact either does not want to take your case or you do not want to work with them. In addition, it is critical not to perform and rely on your own research for figuring out the statute of limitations is. Instead, you should consult with an attorney about the applicable deadline.