Schwartz & Ponterio, PLLC holds lawyers responsible for legal malpractice.

Forgetting the statute of limitations can be legal malpractice

On Behalf of | May 26, 2021 | Legal Malpractice

The legal system is incredibly complex and uses its own jargon, which many people find confusing. The average person will struggle to handle any legal matter on their own, which is why they hire lawyers.

An attorney understands how to interpret the law and also how the courts apply current laws to certain circumstances. Those harmed by someone else who need compensation due to property damage, physical injury or even emotional harm intentionally inflicted by another person may decide to take legal action.

When they do, they rely on the knowledge and expertise of their attorney to help them navigate the civil court system. An attorney should help clients by offering information and advocating for them in the legal system. Unfortunately, some attorneys fail in these basic requirements, often through negligence or carelessness. For example, an attorney should never put their clients in a position where they lose their right to compensation because they ignored the applicable statute of limitations.

How statutes of limitations work in New York

Under state and federal law, there are time limits on how long individuals can take civil action against another person or business and on how long after an incident the government can prosecute an individual. Knowing which limitation applies to a client’s specific situation is one of the most important steps in a personal injury case.

Lawyers should inform their clients about when the statute of limitations will take effect and be diligent in their attempts to file all necessary paperwork well ahead of time. If someone fails to take action before the statute of limitations passes, they will usually lose out on their rights unless there are unusual circumstances, such as the sudden discovery of new evidence.

Knowing the applicable statute of limitations for a specific kind of case is crucial to giving clients proper guidance and adequate representation. For example, those suing for libel or slander only have a year to take action, while court proceedings related to fraud can occur for up to six years after the allegedly fraudulent acts. Those who suffer a physical injury often have three years to pursue compensation, but victims of medical malpractice typically have two-and-a-half years.

Adequate representation requires timely action

Your lawyer should help you build your case, not undermine it by taking too long to file the necessary paperwork. Whether they made a mistake about jurisdiction or simply forgot to submit certain forms, an attorney who allows the statute of limitations to pass may have done their clients a major disservice.

Inadequate counsel or representation can be grounds for a legal malpractice claim. When your employer messes up and doesn’t take the right steps for you to seek compensation, you may be able to hold them accountable for the impact of their failure on your case.