Lawyers tend to use legal “jargon,” making things seem much more complicated than they need to be most of the time. One term you will see on lawyer websites over and over again is “statute of limitations.” Here’s why the statute of limitations shouldn’t scare mariners. It just means that there is a certain window in time when you need to file your suit. The statute of limitations is crucial because your claim disappears no matter how solid of a claim you had if you wait too long to file your lawsuit. In maritime law, that window of time – the statute of limitations – is three years.
When you’re trying to figure out how long you have to file your maritime injury claim, there are three types of claims that affect how long your statute of limitations will be. These claims are:
- Something that immediately injures you
- Something that immediately injures you but then causes much more harm later
- Something that happens and you have no signs of harm until much later on
The immediate harm claim
This is the most common type of claim, and what most people would think about when they think about a workplace injury. For example, if you broke your leg while working, you know what date that happened. That means if you broke your leg on January 1, 2018, you have until December 31, 2020 to file your claim.
The traumatic event/ latent manifestation claim
This is where things start to become a little bit trickier. In one case an electrician was injured when he used toxic chemicals to help clean. He had five or six severe headaches afterwards, but nothing more. He started going to the doctor for treatment, and continued going for 10 years before someone made the connection that his ailments may be connected to his exposure to the toxic chemicals. However, the court dismissed his case because the statute of limitations had expired. The court’s thinking was that he knew that he was using chemicals and the headaches that he had were sufficient to put him on notice that something had gone wrong, and if he thought it was his employer’s fault he should have pursued it at that time.
If you are working with toxic chemicals, getting the same leg or back pain, doing the same motions over and over again that are affecting you physically, or anything that, over time, could end your career, consult a maritime injury attorney right away.
The pure latent injury claim
Some injuries are even harder to determine, and for those injuries the court will apply what is known as “the discovery rule.” With this type of injury the court will attempt to determine if you should have known that the injury was the result of some condition that you were aware of. For example, if there is no reason to know that working in a particular area will lead to hearing loss then the statute of limitations will not run until you should know that the area caused the hearing loss.
Questions about the statute of limitations for maritime lawsuits? Consult a Board Certified Jones Act and maritime law firm
First, be aware of the possible connections between your job and any health issues you may have. There doesn’t have to be a “broken leg” type of injury for your employer to need to take care of you. Second, because there can be such a fine line between a traumatic event/ latent manifestation and a pure latent injury it is important to consult an attorney as soon as possible. The sooner you get an attorney working on your case, the more issues you can avoid when it comes to the statute of limitations, evidence, and other issues related to the Jones Act.
At VB Attorneys, our Board Certified attorneys will listen to your story and help you determine if there is a case. The consultation is always completely confidential. And, if you have a case, we will help you get medical documentation of your injuries, any medical care you need, and work with you behind the scenes for free until it is time to file your lawsuit. We work on a contingency fee basis – which means you pay nothing until we win your case. You have everything to gain. To get started today, call us at 877-724-7800 or fill out a contact form.