Every state in the USA has its own statute of limitations ("SOLJI) for varying type of claims, and they vary based upon the type of action anticipated. For example, it is quite normal for the SOL to be different
in tort cases than for a contract cases. Very often an SOL for medical malpractice will be specifically noted and will be quite different from the other SOL’s for that state.
What does the SOL really mean? The SOL simply limits the time frame within which an injured party may bring an action. For example, if the SOL is three (3) years, that simply means that if a law suit is not filed
within three (3) years from the appropriate date, (which may be the date of the accident, but could vary), the right to make a claim will be lost … thus there is a limited time frame within which to bring an action.
Thus, it is important to be aware of the specific SOL that will govern the type of action one might bring. And, as was noted, since these can vary from state to state it is often conceivable that there could be two (2) different SOL’s that apply to a case. How could this happen?
Lets assume that a Maryland resident is involved in an accident that occurs in Virginia but the at fault driver resides in Maryland. Maryland law allows for a claimant to file suit either in the jurisdiction where the accident occurred OR where the defendant resides. Thus the Maryland claimant has a choice of venue. Assume that the SOL in Virginia for a tort claim is two (2) years – should 2S months lapse since the date of accident the claimant would be barred from filing an action in Virginia. But, since the SOL in Maryland is three (3) years the claimant sill has eleven (11) years to bring the action.
Thus, it is important for a claimant to be aware of the varying SOL’s that could playa role in determining where and when a law suit must be brought. Next week we will discuss how one accident in Maryland can
be governed by two (2) different SOL.