For most people, the term statute of limitations likely calls to mind criminal matters. For many criminal offenses, such as petty theft and other misdemeanors, there is a firm statute of limitations in place. This statute effectively protects someone from facing criminal consequences indefinitely. In other words, the state has a limited amount of time when they can bring charges against someone for a criminal act.
Creating a statute of limitations helps incentivize individuals to change their lives. If they don't make similar criminal mistakes in the future, they can potentially avoid penalties and consequences. If there weren't such a limit in place, there would be little reason for those who have ever committed a crime to attempt to reform their ways.
However, statutes of limitations don't just apply to criminal charges. They also apply to many forms of civil legal action. The state will limit how long an individual has to bring a claim against another person or a company for damages or injuries. Understanding statutes of limitations in your situation will be critical to developing your legal strategy.
You should plan to act while within the statute of limitations
The state statute of limitations can impact all kinds of legal actions, including civil filings seeking compensation. In other words, you need to take action in a timely manner when someone, through actions or oversights, causes injury or property damage that impacts your life.
Once you realize that civil action is the only way to address your situation, you should sit down with an attorney as soon as possible. An attorney should immediately advise you of your rights, as well as the limits to those rights. You should understand how the statute of limitations will impact your case before you make decisions about how to move forward. Unfortunately, not all attorneys are proactive in educating their clients.
Your attorney may have failed to inform you about an upcoming statute of limitations. They may also have failed to know it themselves and take adequate action prior to the passage of the date in question. In those circumstances, the individuals in question may have a case for professional malpractice against the attorney that represented them.
Attorneys who fail to meet the statute of limitations may do clients a disservice
Knowing the statutes that impact a client's rights is one of the most important roles filled by an attorney. You trust your lawyer to know about what must be done and by when. If your lawyer fails to act or provide you with adequate guidance about an upcoming statute of limitations cutoff that will impact your case, that could be grounds for a claim of legal malpractice.