When to File a Defective Products Lawsuit

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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The time period to file a defective products lawsuit is known as the statute of limitations. It is critical to know and follow the products liability statute of limitations because not doing so could jeopardize the right to sue. If a potential plaintiff fails to file their claim within the products liability statute of limitations, a judge will almost certainly throw out the case no matter how strong the claim is.

Product Liability Statute of Limitations Time Limits

The time period prescribed by a products liability statute of limitations varies from state to state, ranging from 1 -4 years. It is important to remember that even if the statute of limitations has expired in one state, a plaintiff may be able to file their case in another state with a longer products liability statute of limitations where the defendant conducts business.

When does a Products Liability Statute of Limitations Start to Run?

There are two main ways that a state could begin to run the clock within its product liability statute of limitations. The first is from the time that the injury actually occurred, which means that the clock starts ticking as soon as the event that causes an injury happens. This method can be harsh because plaintiffs who do not discover they are injured until after the products liability statute of limitations has expired are out of luck. For example, if a person was in a car accident and discovered a back injury a year and half later in a state where the statute of limitations was only a year, then they could not sue the responsible manufacturer. Any plaintiff involved in an accident that could potentially cause injury should get examined to make sure there is not a slow developing injury.

The other common way that a state begins to run the clock on its product liability statute of limitations is from the time the injury is discovered or should have been discovered. This method is far less harsh than running the clock from the time the plaintiff realized they were injured. For example, if a person with asthma ingested an inhaler recommended by their doctor, but did not discover an injury to their lungs until years later, the clock on the products liability statute of limitations would begin running at the time the injury was discovered, not from when the person took the inhaler. However, if that same person began feeling sick, but put off seeing a doctor for a year, a court may decide that the product liability statute of limitations began to run when they first started feeling sick because if the person would have gone to the doctor, the injury would have been discovered at that time.

Whether a state has an actual injury clock or a discovered injury clock attached to its products liability statute of limitations, the sooner a potential defective products plaintiff files their claim, the better.

Beware of Secondary Time Limits

Some states have another type of time limitation which they apply to defective product lawsuits that claim injuries caused by defective products sold many years ago. For example, some states may have an absolute bar on product liability claims complaining of injuries caused by a defective product sold ten or more years ago. These secondary time limits are called statutes of repose. The specifics of a statute of repose will vary from state to state and not every state has one.

The minute you believe you have suffered an injury from a defective product, contact an experienced product liability attorney immediately. He or she will be able to inform you about the product liability statute of limitations and statute of repose rules in your state.

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