What is the purpose of Virginia's Statute of Limitations?
There is limited time in Virginia to protect your legal rights. In most cases you have two years to file a lawsuit. The two year statute of limitations applies to most automobile accidents, medical malpractice, products liability claims, nursing home, wrongful death claims and most other personal injury actions. During that two year period, you need to hire a lawyer, the lawyer needs to gather evidence including medical records, the lawyer needs to locate and hire experts in many cases, and the lawyer must prepare and file the lawsuit. Some lawsuits can be drafted and filed the same day while others require extensive legal research.
What sparked this blog topic is that I was recently meeting with a treating doctor in a medical malpractice case. As an aside he mentioned that he believed his father died due to medical malpractice and he wanted to know if the statute of limitations had expired. Unfortunately, it expired and there was nothing I could do to assist him regardless of the merits of the case. He asked me why we even have a statute of limitations. He commented that was a grieving for well over a year and couldn't bring himself to discuss the case with a lawyer for quite some time. We have a statute of limitations because it would be unfair for someone to have to defend themselves once witnesses' memories have faded and documents and other evidence have been lost.
In my opinion two years is too short, but that is Virginia law. Unfortunately claims against cities and the state have even shorter deadlines. Therefore, if you are considering filing a legal claim you should not delay in seeking legal representation.