Updated: Jun 16
Many people hesitate when it comes to calling a lawyer. Whether because they are grieving the loss of someone, dealing with severe physical injuries, or kind of scared to talk to an attorney, many people wait 6, 9, or even 12 months before seeking advice. Some even wait a few years before calling to ask questions.
Unfortunately, time is not on your side when it comes to legal matters. Even if you are still recovering from an injury, the law states that you have one year to file a lawsuit for personal injury claims. workers’ compensation and most torts are also one year. Contract claims have three years. Claims like slander only have six months. These limits to the time in which you can file a lawsuit are called Statutes of Limitations. These are passed by the legislature and found in the Tennessee Code Annotated.
The time begins running from the moment you know, or should know that you have a claim. For most types of lawsuits you know the very moment the claim arises because someone else has done certain acts that have resulted in your claim. But sometimes the events happen long before you discover what has happened. For instance in a breach of contract claim, the other party may take actions that you only discover later.
There are other limitations on causes of action found in the legislative statutes called statutes of repose. These statutes prevent people from filing suits whether they know they have been injured or not. For most claims, the statute of repose is three years. Products have a ten year statute of repose.
Each case is different. Sometimes the time limit is not an easy thing to determine. The interplay of these two types of limitations can be confusing and result in a harsh outcome (not being able to bring a lawsuit). You need to contact a lawyer as soon as you know you have a claim so you know exactly how much time you have.
Getting a lawsuit started takes time and attorneys need as much time as possible to prepare your claim. Like Miracle Max said in The Princess Bride, “you rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles”. Same thing goes for lawsuits. Most attorneys are hesitant to take on a case in the eleventh hour due to the ethical rules and obligations placed upon attorneys. If you have a claim or think you might have a claim, contact an attorney immediately and protect your rights.