California Legal News Reports Index
Common Legal Mistakes to Avoid:
Time Traps1. Lawsuit Filing Deadlines: Unfortunately, many people wait too long before seeking legal help or taking legal action. As a result, the statute of limitations runs (that is, the time deadline imposed by law to file a lawsuit passes), and they forever lose their right to recover any damages.
The most common type of claims that I have encountered where statute of limitations issues have arisen due to a person who delayed taking action or seeking legal help are:
(1) Claims against California local, county or state governmental entities and/or government employees. Such claims typically have a special, mandatory six month pre-lawsuit claims filing statute; and
(2) Medical malpractice matters (often involving persons with catastrophic and/or disabling injuries). Such medical negligence cases can create a potential statute of limitations defense issue, sometimes as early as one year after the negligent act.
As a matter of fact, the great frequency and prevalency of people contacting me after statute of limitations deadlines issues have come into play (with often legal devastating consequences) is what compelled me to write this article.
To learn more about Statute of Limitations law in California, press the link below:
2. Investigation Delays: Further, some persons delay gathering evidence and/or seeking legal consultation after an personal injury-producing accident. As a result, critical evidence necessary to effectively prove a case is sometimes destroyed, removed, or lost.
3. Response to Lawsuit Deadlines: Another common time trap is where a person or business is sued and fails to file with the court a response to the lawsuit within the time limits required by law (which, in California, is normally thirty days after being personally served with the Summons and Complaint). As a result of failing to respond in a timely manner, the Defendant may lose the case by default without a chance to defend himself or herself. Though I've historicallly been frequently able to obtain legal relief for people from the catastrophic penalty of such response delays, doing so was highly risky and significantly increased the client's legal fees.
Losing a case based on an easily avoidable technicality can be heart breaking as well as devastating financially and/or emotionally. Therefore, don't slumber on your rights. Don't procrastinate. Immediately seek legal representation or take legal action. At a minimum, obtain legal counsel to ascertain the time deadlines or to strategize how to preserve evidence.
If you know someone who might have a legal claim but has not taken action, encourage them to seek immediate legal consultation. Frequently, lawyers (like myself) offer free initial consultations.
However, even if you believe that you might have waited too long to take legal action, still seek legal consultation with an attorney to determine:
(1) If any of the time-lengthening exceptions apply to the statue of limitations; and/or
(2) Whether or not liability can be established despite potential loss of evidence caused by delay in gathering evidence.
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