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Am I in Time? Did I Wait too Long to File a Lawsuit?


Figuring out whether you’re in time to file a lawsuit in Maine is not as simple as you might imagine. At Briggs & Wholey we want you to know that different types of personal injury lawsuits have different deadlines for filing a lawsuit, and many different hurdles you have to overcome before you are legally allowed to file a lawsuit. And it depends, too, whether you’re an adult or a child (which in legal terms is a “minor”).

Six Years: For an adult in Maine, a car crash case must be filed in Court within six years of the date of the accident which causes your injury. This is Maine’s “Statute of Limitations” period for a car accident case. If you go beyond that date, your right to recovery is gone forever. The six year Statute of Limitations in Maine applies to most types of negligence cases causing injury, including those involving cars and trucks, falling on someone’s carelessly maintained property, dog bites and faulty products. Six years may seem like a lot (it is), but you don’t want to wait that long if you don’t have to. As time goes by, evidence becomes unavailable, witnesses disappear, memories fade and it becomes that much harder to win you the compensation you deserve. The time is there if you need it, but it is in your best interests to act sooner rather than later.

Three Years: Doctors--a very powerful group in Maine--have a much better deal on the Statute of Limitations. The Statute of Limitations for medical malpractice cases in Maine is three years from the date of the alleged act of negligence. If a Maine doctor negligently fails to diagnose your cancer because he or she misread your x-ray, or test result, or even if they simply didn’t look at your test at all- well, you only have three years from the date of the negligent act to file a claim for the harm you suffered.

If you didn’t even find out about the misread or misplaced or ignored test result until more than three years after the Doctor’s negligence or were not aware of the negligent act until more than three years later, too bad for you, under Maine law. At Briggs & Wholey, we think this is outrageous. Everyone should do what they can to convince our Legislators in Augusta that this is just not fair to malpractice victims, but as it stands today, this is the law. (See http://www.mtla.org/me/ for more on this topic, and don’t be shy about letting your elected representatives in Augusta know how you feel about this). 

Two Years: A two-year limitation exists for certain intentional torts such as assault and battery, libel and slander and false imprisonment. Negligence actions against ski areas or tubing parks also must be filed within two years. A lawsuit for money damages because of a loved one’s wrongful death must be brought within two years of the date of death (except if a doctor, hospital or other medical provider who caused the death through medical malpractice, in which case a three year limitations to file a claim applies as described above).

180 Days/State and Local Government: The six year Statute of Limitations in Maine for a car crash, or serious “slip and fall” on someone’s property, doesn’t apply if your injury is caused by a State of Maine or local government agency, department, board or employee. A “Notice of Claim” must be filed within 180 days of the negligent act with the appropriate Maine agency if your injury was caused by a State, City or Town agency, worker or employee and then you must file your lawsuit within two years.

Federal Government: If you were injured due to the negligence of the United States government or one of its employees or agencies, you have two years to file the Notice of Claim (using a special U.S. government form), and then there are special time limits after that for filing the lawsuit against the United States in Federal Court.

Minors: If you were under 18 years of age at the time of your injury, that’s another matter entirely. Special rules apply to the Statute of Limitation in Maine for Minors.

This is not meant to be an all inclusive list of Statute of Limitations issues. It’s meant to give you an idea about some of the important Statute of Limitations issues that must be addressed at the outset of the case.

Figuring out the Statute of Limitations on your own can be risky business. At Briggs & Wholey we never charge for an initial consultation to help you over that first- but critical- hurdle on your way to recovering money to compensate you and your family for the hurt you suffered through the wrongful actions of someone else. Helping you is what we do. The Statute of Limitations is our first consideration.

Copyright 2006, Briggs & Wholey

Donald Briggs C. Donald Briggs, III Feb. 7, 1954 - Sept. 7, 2014 Your dedication and hard work continue...