What is a Statute of Repose?
Written by AskTheLawyers.com™ on behalf of Alan J. Robertson with Sloan Firm.
A statute of repose refers to a certain window of time after an event; when the statute of repose passes, anyone injured by that event is no longer eligible to file a personal injury claim. A statute of repose is often confused with a statute of limitations, which refers to how much time an injured person has to file a personal injury claim before they lose their eligibility for legal recourse. In most cases, a statute of repose negates the statute of limitations, and can vary from state to state. If you are unsure whether the statute of repose or limitations has passed for your injury case, reach out to a personal injury lawyer in your area as soon as possible.
A statute of repose often applies to product liability cases.
Any case where someone is injured by a potentially defective product is considered a product liability case. In most states, the statute of limitations in which someone must file a product liability case is two to three years from the date of the injury.
However, if the statute of repose has passed for that particular product, the injured party may not be eligible to file. For example, in Texas, the statute of limitations for product liability cases is 2 years. However, the statute of repose for product liability is 15 years from the date the item was sold. So, if the item in question was purchased in Texas 16 years before it caused the injury, the injured party is not eligible to file a claim against that product.
The statute of repose is important, especially in product liability cases, because many products are not designed to be used over a certain period of time. For example, electric blankets responsible for household fires are often not inherently defective, but are simply old. As any product ages, it may become less effective or present new risks.
This is why it is important to read the instructions that come with any product and only use as directed. The older a product is, the more difficult it can be to identify whether someone’s injury was caused by a defect in the product or simply an old and reasonably deteriorating product.
However, the statute of repose applies to more than just product liability cases.
This same concept applies to cases of construction defects and medical malpractice. For example, the statute of repose for construction defect cases in Texas is 10 years from the substantial completion of the structure. Therefore, if a building is more than 10 years old when someone suffers an injury as a result of an alleged defect, they cannot file a claim for that issue.
In a medical malpractice claim, the application of the statute of repose differs slightly; rather than the clock beginning at the time the injury was inflicted, the clock begins at the point in time in which the patient should reasonably have noticed the injury. This application is important to note, as many injuries caused by medical malpractice may not be immediately apparent.
In Texas, the statute of repose for a medical malpractice claim is 10 years from discovery of the injury. So, for example, if medical malpractice is committed in Texas in 2020, but the victim does not discover the resulting injury until 2021, the statute of repose for that medical malpractice claim would not begin until 2021 and would end in 2031.
If you have suffered an injury and are unsure how the statute of repose applies to your case, talk to a personal injury lawyer immediately.
Due to the various time limits involved in filing a personal injury claim, it is important to seek medical care and talk to an attorney sooner rather than later. Waiting to seek medical care and file your claim could result in a loss of eligibility for legal recourse and even if the statute of limitations is still in effect, may hurt your case. Additionally, these statutes vary from state to state, so it’s important to talk to someone who understands the legislation in your area.
It may help to note that talking to a personal injury attorney is almost always free, and most of these attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, meaning their clients don’t pay unless they win. This allows injured parties and their families to focus on healing and recovery rather than worrying about finances. If you think you may be eligible to file a personal injury claim, seek legal counsel as soon as possible to learn about how the statute of repose and limitations in your state applies to your case.