If you've been the victim of an auto accident, slip-and-fall injury, or other physical injury due to another person's (or business's) negligence, you may be gathering the evidence to file a personal injury lawsuit. While there can often be some well-founded strategic and logistical reasons behind waiting until nearly the end of the expiration of your tort or personal injury claim's statute of limitation, waiting can also run the risk of changes in the law impacting your claim. Read on to learn more about some proposed tort reforms currently moving their way through the federal government and some of the factors you'll want to consider when deciding the timing of your own civil lawsuit.
What proposed tort reforms are pending at the federal level?
Unlike many states' laws, which have capped medical malpractice damages and other tort damages at a specific dollar amount, the federal government has had no cap on non-compensable damages (like pain and suffering) in these types of cases. This may change in the near future, as House Republicans have put forth a bill that proposes to cap the amount of non-economic damages recoverable in a medical malpractice lawsuit at $250,000. Those who file a tort lawsuit after this proposed law has been enacted won't be able to recover any more than a quarter of a million dollars in pain and suffering damages, even if the incident leading to these damages occurred while the old law was still in place.
It's also possible that additional tort reforms may be proposed as the federal government begins tackling the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which has made major changes to the landscape of insurance coverage and the remedies available under most types of tort lawsuits. This uncertainty about the future of federal law can add to the risks that may come from waiting until near the end of a statute of limitation to file a lawsuit.
What factors will you want to take into account when deciding when to file your civil lawsuit?
Because the statutes of limitation on a number of civil lawsuits at the federal level can be as little as two years from the date of injury, it's important to begin your researching and planning process as soon as possible. Being prepared to rebut some common defenses and having the information and evidence you'll need to show the defendant's guilt is key to success in the personal injury lawsuit process -- but at the same time, waiting to file can sometimes pose some risk.
You'll want to consider some of the following factors when deciding whether to file now or wait:
- The defendant's relative financial health
If your proposed lawsuit is against an individual who is beginning to fall into a dire financial state or a business that's preparing to declare bankruptcy, filing now can preserve your right to recovery even if the defendant is later declared insolvent. Waiting until a defendant has already declared bankruptcy or gone out of business before filing could leave you without any legal recourse for the injuries you've suffered.
- The risk that future changes in tort law could impact the amount of recovery in your case
If your case is a relatively low-dollar one, changes to tort recovery limits or other tort laws may not have much of an (if any) impact on your case. However, if you suspect that your recovery could be in the mid-six figures or higher, it may be worthwhile to file quickly rather than waiting; doing so could ensure that your claim is tried under the laws in place at the time your case was filed, rather than under future laws that may be enacted.