Answer Provided by Our Knowledgeable Personal Injury Lawyer
The injuries sustained in an accident or assault may appear immediately or in the course of time. If your injuries appear immediately or within a few hours, then they are obvious to everyone. But if they appear after several days or months, then an investigation into the cause of the injuries may be required. In legal parlance, this investigation is known as discovery of harm. In order to fully understand the term, it is necessary to understand another legal term: ‘statute of limitation’.
What is Statute of Limitation?
In any personal injury case, the injured party is allowed a window of time within which he or she can file a personal injury claim. Once the window has passed, you cannot file a claim. This is called statute of limitation. Discovery of harm must take place before the statute of limitation expires.
Statute of limitation for personal injury can be as long as four years, depending on the nature of the injury and the state you are in. In California the statute of limitation to file a personal injury lawsuit is two years from the date of injury.
When Does Statute of Limitation Begin?
Statute of limitation in a person injury claim can begin on the date of accident, or the date the injury was discovered, or the date the injury was diagnosed by a doctor, or the date on which the plaintiff should have discovered the injury. Under specials circumstances, a judge may decide the starting point.
For example, let’s say that you were hit by a car while you were walking. You did not sustain any visible injuries. No cuts, no bruises and no fractured or broken bones. But after several weeks, you began to feel pain in your chest. You went to see a doctor. After conductive several tests, your doctor told you that you had bleeding around your lungs. He suspected that it happened due to the accident. You then contact a personal injury lawyer, who tells you that the statute of limitation begins the day the injury was diagnosed.
What is discovery of harm rule?
The discovery of harm rule states that the statute of limitations may not begin immediately after the accident or event that caused the injury. It begins on the day you find out that you have been injured. Since you may not know when exactly you found out, you can give the judge the date you were diagnosed.
This rule helps you get justice and compensation even after the legal deadline for filing the case has expired, provided you can prove that you had not known or could not reasonably have found out about your injury. In other words, it allows you to extend the statute of limitation for filing a personal injury case.
The discovery of harm rule doesn’t apply in all personal injury cases. It doesn’t apply in a cases where the date of injury and the discovery of injury are the same; for example, motor vehicle accidents and slip and fall accidents. This rule is most often used in cases of product liability and medical malpractice.
What is Reasonable Discovery of Harm?
When talking about discovery of harm, the word ‘reasonable’ is often mentioned. What it means is that for the rule to apply, you must have been known to have exercised reasonable diligence in investigating the symptoms of your injuries. Failure to do so means that you are intentionally delaying the formal discovery of your injury, which can result in the loss of your right to file a lawsuit.
What’s the role of your insurance company?
Your insurance company can play either a positive or a negative role in your discovery of harm. Insurance companies often deliberately delay the payment of claims as long as possible to earn money through interests. If the claim is not paid out before the expiry of statute of limit, they may not even have to pay. When your insurance company operates in bad faith like this, there is not much you can do apart from filing a bad faith claim which may extend your statute of limitation. If your insurance company is playing truant, talk to a reliable personal injury lawyer immediately.