If you have been injured in New Jersey because of the careless or negligent acts of another person, you have a specific time period in which you must initiate legal action to recover for any losses. There are good reasons for this law, referred to as the “statute of limitations.” Requiring that you file within a specific period of time helps avoid the loss of evidence and can ensure that you go to trial while witnesses’ memories are still sharp. In addition, it establishes an end date for the wrongdoer, so that he or she doesn’t have to live with the threat of legal action for years or decades.
The statute of limitations in a state law and varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and even from one type of legal action to the next. In New Jersey, you must file a personal injury lawsuit within “two years after the cause of any such action shall have accrued.” The same period of time applies to a wrongful death action, but the period does not start until the date of death.
There can be situations, though, where an injury does not become apparent for months or even years after an accident or exposure to wrongdoing. For example, you may have a reaction to a prescription drug years after taking it. How does the law determine when the statute of limitations starts to run? Is it when the actual injury occurs or when you become aware of the injury?
In New Jersey, as in many other states, the so-called “discovery rule” applies to the statute of limitations of personal injury claims. The discovery rule essentially holds that the statute of limitations does not start to run on a personal injury claim until “the injured party discovers, or by the exercise of reasonable diligence and intelligence should have discovered” the injury. Therefore, if you had no symptoms or indications of injury for two years after an accident, the statute of limitations would not start to run until you discovered (or should have discovered) the injury.
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