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Statute of Limitations in West Virginia

Posted in Personal injury on March 19, 2020

A statute of limitations is a law in each state that motivates plaintiffs to come forward and submit their claims within a reasonable time. Without a statute of limitations, a plaintiff could potentially wait until 50 years later to bring a claim. Every state has different statutes of limitations. It is important to know and obey your statute of limitations as the plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit; otherwise, the county courts will most likely bar you from recovery. Speak to an injury attorney in West Virginia to learn your exact deadline based on your type of case and unique situation.

Statutes of Limitations Based on Case Type

Criminal and civil statutes of limitations are not the same. Each state has different deadlines for both case types. The statute of limitations on a criminal case determines how long the prosecution has to bring criminal charges against the alleged perpetrator. A civil statute of limitations sets a time limit on how long the injured victim has to file a claim to damages. In West Virginia, civil statutes of limitations change according to case type.

  • Personal injury. Two years from the date the injury occurred.
  • Wrongful death. Two years from the date of the loved one’s death.
  • Property damage only. Two years from the date of the accident.
  • Breach of contract. Two years from the breach, fraud or legal malpractice.
  • Slander or libel. One year from the date of the last noted incident.
  • Medical malpractice. Two years from the date you discovered or reasonably should have discovered the malpractice.
  • Workers’ compensation. Three years from the date of diagnosis or last exposure to a hazardous element.

A medical malpractice lawsuit has an additional deadline in West Virginia: a statute of repose. This statute of repose is 10 years from the date of the injury. This is a final deadline, after which no plaintiff may bring a medical malpractice action – even if he or she did not discover the injury until 10 years later. The only client not subject to the 10-year maximum is one who was under age 10 at the time of injury. A minor client under age 10 will have 2 years from the date of his or her 12th birthday to file. The statute of repose limitation does not apply to these cases.

Exceptions to the Rule

The courts in West Virginia grant limited exceptions to the general rules when it comes to case deadlines. In most scenarios, if you miss your statute of limitations, you give up any right to demand compensation. How a deadline might apply to a case, however, can change depending on the circumstances. Some plaintiffs qualify for exceptions to the typical statutes of limitations.

  • Discovery rule. Almost all cases come with a discovery rule exception – a deadline extension for plaintiffs who do not discover their injuries or losses until after the date of the accident. In these cases, the clock does not start counting down until the date of discovery.
  • Special rule for minors. The statute of limitations during a personal injury claim involving an injured minor is two years from his or her 18th birthday rather than the date of the accident, except in wrongful death and medical malpractice cases. If you have a wrongful death claim, speak to a wrongful death attorney in West Virginia to learn more about your legal options.
  • Tolled deadline for criminal cases. Most of the time, the civil courts will agree to toll (pause) the statute of limitations during an ongoing criminal case involving the same defendant. If you are bringing a claim against a criminal for physically assaulting you, for example, you might have two years from the date of his or her conviction to file.

Do not assume you qualify for an exception. They are rare. Contact a lawyer as soon as you can after an accident or injury to determine your deadline to file. Giving your lawyer enough time to preserve and collect evidence, build a strong case, and prepare your claim for trial can help you win a fair amount of damages. Act quickly if you believe you have grounds for a claim, before you miss your deadline.