If you wait too long, your opportunity to file a claim following an accident or injury can vanish — no matter how fair your claim nor how serious your injuries.That’s because of statutes of limitations.
Statutes of limitations exist so that people aren’t constantly looking over their shoulders, wondering if a car accident 20 years ago is going to suddenly result in a lawsuit. They also encourage people to take action while their memories of pertinent events are still fresh, and evidence concerning the claim is still readily available.
Unlike many other states (which usually allow two years or even three), Tennessee only gives you one year to file a personal injury claim. For most incidents that lead to injury, the clock starts ticking as soon as the injury happens, or the “date of harm.”
Sometimes, however, it doesn’t. If you happened to break your legs falling down a set of steps that were missing a handrail or you suffered facial injuries in a car wreck, you immediately knew you were hurt. But what if you suffered a concussion that led to traumatic brain damage and the problems weren’t immediately apparent? What if you’re the victim of a surgical mistake, and it takes months (or years) to discover that your ongoing pain and problems with infection are due to a misplaced towel or clamp?
In those cases, the clock that determines your statute of limitations may be paused. The controlling date can be the date that you first discover the injury — or the date that you should have discovered it, instead. For example, if a surgeon left a sponge inside you during heart surgery, you may not discover what happened until your ongoing problems prompt surgeons to open you back up again.
Because Tennessee has such a relatively short statute of limitations on injury claims and the nuances can be complicated, it’s always in your best interest to discuss your situation with an attorney as soon as possible.