The statute of limitations refers to the deadline by which you must file a personal injury claim. In the state of Washington, you have three years from the date of the accident to file a civil lawsuit.
If you miss the deadline and try to file your lawsuit anyway, the defendant will almost definitely file a motion to dismiss the claim based on the statute of limitations. If this happens, you won’t be able to recover any compensation, even if you would have legally been entitled to receive compensation.
If the personal injury claim involves a minor, the statute of limitations is different. For victims under the age of 18, the statute of limitations doesn’t begin to start until the injured party turns 18. Once the victim reaches this age, they will have three years from that date to file a lawsuit.
Defendant Leaves the State or Conceals Themselves Within the State
If the person responsible for the accident leaves the state or hides themselves within the state, that particular time won’t count against the statute of limitations. In other words, a person cannot just hide for three years so that they cannot be served and sued. If this occurs, the deadline would be extended.
Injury Was Discovered Later
Sometimes an injury isn’t immediately discoverable or visible. If this is the case, the statute of limitations may be extended. Generally, if the injury isn’t clear at the time it occurs, the statute of limitations doesn’t start until the injury was actually discovered or until the injury should’ve been discovered through reasonable means.
Example: A patient has surgery, and the doctor leaves a surgical sponge inside their body. They complain of pain for several years, but no one knows what the cause is. A few years later, the patient has x-rays and it’s revealed that something was left inside their body. In this case, the statute of limitations wouldn’t start running until the date that they discovered the sponge was inside the patient. The patient would have an additional three years to file a lawsuit.