If you are considering filing a personal injury lawsuit in Oklahoma, you should be aware that there are time limits on how long you can wait before filing. It is a good idea to seek legal advice to discuss the specifics of your case and to find out whether you might be able to make an argument for extended time to file the lawsuit, but for now, here are the basics on time limits for filing a personal injury lawsuit.
The Statute of Limitations
The main reason that you need to go ahead and file as quickly as you can is the statute of limitations. A late lawsuit would make for a very difficult case: witnesses might leave or pass away, evidence might be misplaced or discarded, the memories of the parties involved might become less clear over time, and it is likely that their stories would be more conflicting. Because of this, lawmakers have established a statute of limitations—that is, a limit on the maximum amount of time that can pass between an accident or event and a lawsuit filed because of it—in each state and for each type of suit.
Most states have a standard statute of limitations for civil cases: one year after the event, unless there are unusual circumstances, which we’ll discuss later. In Oklahoma, you can typically file a personal injury lawsuit up to two years after the event that caused the injury.
Can You Get an Extension?
The most important exception to this limit is called the “discovery rule,” and it has to do with the main way that injuries differ from other actionable incidents. Depending on the type of injury and what happened to cause it, you may not discover how severe your injuries are until long after the event, or you may find that there are long-term effects or injuries that you missed at first.
The discovery rule establishes that you start counting the two years from the point in time when you discovered the injury, its long-term effects, or the fact that it was caused by the person, business or organization that will be the defendant. Not only is this the most common exception, it is also the easiest to prove in court: make sure to collect and save copies of any datable information, such as medical documentation, that can serve as evidence of when you discovered your injuries.
There are a few other situations that may allow you to extend the limit for a personal injury lawsuit. If the defendant traveled out-of-state during those two years, the clock stops for as long as they are outside Oklahoma. That is, you can have the limit extended by the same length of time the defendant was gone. Furthermore, a judge or court may grant further extensions if the person who was injured was a minor, disabled or mentally ill.
Extensions other than those depending on the discovery rule are much harder to prove legally, and if you intend to make use of these other types of extension, you should seek legal help to increase your chances.
What You Should Do with a Personal Injury Lawsuit
No matter the legal situation, the first thing you should do after an injury is seek medical treatment. If for some reason you are delayed, it is still important to go to a medical professional in order to have your injuries reliably documented and to ensure that you know how serious your injuries are. Keep any documents or bills: these will help prove your injuries, and prevent insurance companies or the defendant from arguing that your injuries were less serious than you claim.
Next, you should seek legal advice from an attorney who is competent and experienced in the area of law that relates to your case. Some people do successfully file and win small personal injury lawsuits by themselves, but the process is more complicated than many other areas of law, and practicing attorneys will have access to more information and investigative resources than the average person on the street. They will also be familiar with the process of filing and pursuing a claim, which will help you avoid running into issues with the statute of limitations for your personal injury lawsuit. Contact your professional attorney to help you with your case today.