You may have heard the term 'statute of limitations' before. You might also have a vague idea that it has something to do with when a case can be filed, which is generally correct. The idea behind a statute of limitations is twofold. First, it is to encourage that legal cases be brought expeditiously after an injury or event has occurred, so that the evidence and other information used in a legal proceeding is available and relatively fresh. Second, it is to take away a bit of uncertainty in the process, so that people and businesses aren't continually worrying about being sued for very old acts or omissions.
In personal injury law, the statute of limitations is generally two years. What this means is that, for example, in a products liability case, a suit against the manufacturer or seller of a defective product needs to be filed within two years of the date of the injury suffered by the plaintiff. Suits filed after that time period had passed would normally be dismissed.
However, in certain circumstances, this period might be delayed, or tolled. This might happen, for instance, in a case concerning a medical product that caused an injury not obvious to the injured person at the time it occurred. An injury might occur during a surgery whose effects are not seen for months or even years. In these cases, a plaintiff may need to bring the suit within two years of the time in which the injury was reasonably discoverable, instead of the exact date of the injury.
The above exceptions, are, however, rare and can get fairly technical. Whether any certain injury qualifies as tolling the statute of limitations, and at what point an injury is reasonably discoverable can both be complex legal arguments. Because of this, people injured by defective products may wish to consider contacting an experienced products liability attorney.