All states set specific time limits for filing different types of lawsuits to ensure all evidence and witness testimonies in the case remain as reliable as possible. In Rhode Island, injury victims have up to three years after the date the injury occurred to file a lawsuit against the negligent party.
After this time limit—called the statute of limitations—expires, the victim forever loses the right to file a case related to the accident. However, there's an important exception to the time limit on Rhode Island injury laws known as the "discovery of harm" rule.
How the Discovery Rule Affects a Rhode Island Injury Case
In most injury cases, the victim’s suffering can be traced back to one specific date—for example, the date of a car crash or slip and fall accident. However, some injuries manifest slowly over time, and victims may be unaware of the progression until years after the causal event.
Under the discovery of harm rule, the statute of limitations “clock” for a victim who was unaware of the injury at the time of the accident starts on the date that the victim became aware of the injury.
Cases involving discovery of harm have their own unique challenges, including:
- Length of time between event and injury. The longer the time between the onset of injury and the lawsuit, the more likely evidence will be lost or no longer reliable.
- Evidence of knowledge. The discovery rule allows that a victim can bring a delayed lawsuit if he or she knew or “should have known” about the injury. The “should have” language is important, since any evidence that points toward a victim’s knowledge—such as a recorded statement after an injury—can be used against the victim.
- Reasons for delay. Even if a delay in discovery occurs, the reason for the delay must be understandable under the circumstances. If a person suffers back problems for years after a slip and fall accident but refuses to go to the doctor, the person will likely not be justified in bringing a case against the property owner after the back injury is finally diagnosed.
As you only have a limited window to bring an injury case, it's a good idea to speak with an attorney as soon as possible after your accident. Contact Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum via our online contact form to schedule an initial consultation at no cost to you.