Lawsuit Time Limits-Statute of Limitation
In the Civil realm of the law, most claims have a statute of limitation. This means that your right to file a lawsuit against a person or entity expires after a certain amount of time. The justification for these time limits is to allow businesses and people to go about their business without having to worry about being sued for something that happened fifteen years ago. It also is meant encourage people who are going to file a lawsuit to do so quickly when memories of the events in question are still fresh and when the important people involved in the incident are available to testify.
Most negligence claims in Arizona have a two-year statute of limitations. This means that if you are going to file a lawsuit, you must do so within two years of the date you discovered or should have discovered that you were injured. If, for example, you discover a year after your surgery that the surgeon left behind some debris in the surgical site, then your two years begins to run on the date of that discovery. If your case has not settled within two years, you must file suit to preserve your claim. If you miss the deadline, your case is over.
Two years is a fairly reasonable time frame that, for most cases, is sufficient time to have a good understanding of the extent of one’s injuries. However, in the state of Arizona, if the potential defendant is a public entity, public employee, or public school, you must file a Notice of Claim against that entity within 180 days of discovery of the injury. A.R.S. § 12-821.01. This diminished time frame places a huge burden on the injured person. Many people only discover this rule after it is too late. If you fail to file this Notice of Claim, your right to collect any money from said public entity completely evaporates.
There are strict rules that must be followed in order to comply with the Notice of Claim statute. One must serve the Notice on the correct person within that public entity or else the claim will be tossed. You must name a sum certain that you will accept to settle said claim or else it will be deemed invalid. If the Notice is invalid and your deadline has expired, your claim has expired with it. The stated purpose of this statute is to allow public entities the ability to know what claims are outstanding and to give them the ability to settle valid claims early on, without the need to litigate. However, the real purpose is to reduce the number of lawsuits. By making people jump through these extra hoops, public entities avoid legitimate claims simply because the law makes it more difficult to file a valid claim.
Once you have successfully filed the Notice of Claim, you must then file your lawsuit within one year of the discovery of the personal injury. This is yet another attempt to reduce lawsuits not by increasing safety, but by raising hurdles to successfully bring a valid claim against a public entity. The Notice of Claim statute is one of many potential landmines that could catch an injured party by surprise.
The Rockafellow Law Firm has the knowledge and experience to navigate these laws to make your case a success. Call for your free consultation today.