If you have recently discovered an injury or ailment that you feel was work-related, but you are afraid you have lost your chance to file for damages, it may not be too late.  The statute of limitations vary for each state, but is two years in most states and as much as six in some.  However, there are exceptions to every rule, and you may still be able to seek damages for your case if the statute of limitations has run out.

The Discovery of Harm rule provides people with an opportunity to seek damages, even after your state's statute of limitations has run out.  This rule is meant to allow for seeking damages in cases where the injury or damage was not known until a later date.  You must be able to prove that there was no way that you could have reasonably known about the damage at the actual time of occurrence.

Here are some examples of use of the Discovery of Harm rule:

  • During surgery a sponge or surgical instrument is accidentally left inside the patient.  It could take more time than the statute of limitations allows for the symptoms of this incident to become known.  Pain or an infection might cause a diagnostic test to be performed, and the harm is then discovered. At this point, the statute of limitations begins to run on this case.
  • The extent of damage caused to the lungs by asbestos was unknown for many years, and subjected many workers to this hazardous substance.  A slow growing particular type of lung cancer associated with asbestos exposure being diagnosed in a patient would begin the statute of limitations countdown clock.
  • Hazardous medical devices, such as artificial joints implanted in patients that began to fail after a few years, instead of the ten-plus years that they should last.  The premature failure and subsequent replacement would prompt the knowledge of the harm, thus beginning the statute of limitations.

Don't wait, contact a lawyer immediately if you suspect you may have a illness or injury caused by a previous work-related event.  It is vital that you take action at the first indication, because the opposing side will attempt to prove that a person would have reasonably known about the link between the initial injury and the discovery of the harm much earlier. For example, is you have symptoms of an injury, but don't seek treatment, the judge could rule that you did not do your part to seek help in timely manner and therefore rule that the statute of limitations should be extended.  Contact a personal injury attorney for additional information.