Someone who has been injured in Nevada needs to keep in mind that they have only a limited window of opportunity to seek compensation through litigation. With a few limited exceptions, someone who is injured or killed by another person must file a lawsuit within two years from the date the injury is discovered.
Lawyers call a time limit like this a statute of limitations, or a limitations period. The purpose of a statute of limitations is to ensure that potential defendants aren’t put at a substantial disadvantage. Plaintiffs who don’t diligently pursue their rights can make defending a case more difficult, by letting memories fade and evidence go stale or disappear. If the statute of limitations has run, a court will refuse to hear the case.
When the statute of limitation begins to accrue
In personal injury cases, the statute of limitations period doesn’t necessarily begin at the time of the accident itself. The limitations period is paused—in legal terms, it “tolls”—until the injured person either discovers the injury, or should have discovered it by exercising reasonable prudence. Once the injury is discovered, or should have been discovered, the statute of limitations begins to accrue. If an injury is immediately apparent at the time of the accident, such as a broken bone resulting from a fall caused by someone’s negligence, the period may begin to accrue immediately.
But many kinds of injury only become apparent long after the event that caused them. Injuries like whiplash can be slow to develop following a car accident. Asbestos poisoning (mesothelioma) or cancer may appear years or even decades after the source exposure. the limitations period may be tolled for a long time after the events that caused the injury.
Exceptions to the two-year rule
Nevada law provides different statutes of limitations for certain specific kinds of injuries. For example, a lawsuit in connection with an injury that is caused by deficient construction needs to be filed within six years of the completion of construction (NRS 11.202). Note that in the case of construction defects the focus is not on the discovery of an injury, but on the construction itself. Other examples of different statutes of limitations include claims related to product liability (four years) (NRS 11.220), and medical malpractice claims (within three years of the cause of the injury, or one year from the discovery of the injury, whichever is earlier) (NRS 41A.097(2)).
The law also protects certain kinds of plaintiffs who might otherwise not be able to protect their rights. For example, the law gives additional time to people who are hurt while they are children. The normal two-year statute of limitations is tolled for injured minors until they turn 18, meaning they can file a lawsuit until they turn 20. Individuals who are sexually abused as a minor must file suit within the later of 10 years after turning 18 or discovering that the abuse caused the injury (NRS 11.215).
If the statute has run, what then?
Once an injury is discovered the injured person should seek the advice of an experienced attorney to ensure that technicalities like the statute of limitations don’t erode chances for recovery. As the above examples show, the applicable statute of limitations may be longer, but it also may be shorter. Even if the statute of limitations has run, an attorney quite often can find another theory for bringing suit.
For over 45 years, Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has helped clients in Las Vegas work through the legal challenges associated with recovering from personal injury. If you or a loved one has been injured and you have questions about your legal options, please give us a call today at 702-388-4476. We can also be reached through our contacts page.