Statutes of limitation are a well-known aspect of any litigation. A statute of limitation limits the time you have to file a lawsuit. In many circumstances, your time to file begins with the occurrence that causes the need for the lawsuit. For instance, if you have a contract and the other party breaches the contract, your time to sue is typically measured from when the breach occurred.
In the personal injury context, the statute of limitations is measured from when your injury occurred. If you are injured in a car accident, the date of the accident is the measuring point for the statute of limitations.
But what if you do not know you were injured?
This is a problem that occurred for many victims of asbestos. They may have been exposed to the material when they were in their 20s, working in a shipyard, construction site or handling brake shoes from automobiles. They may have moved on to other jobs and forgotten that they had even handled a material that contained asbestos.
More likely, they never knew it was contaminated with asbestos, and it was only 20 or 30 years later that they discovered they had a cough that would not go away. It may only have been when the doctor presents them with the chilling diagnosis of mesothelioma that they realized they had been exposed to asbestos decades earlier.
Next week we will look at how statues of limitations affect asbestos-related illness claims.
Asbestos.com, “Statute of Limitations,” Tim Povak, page accessed January 2015.