Understand the Statute of Limitations.
Almost every student knows that the legal drinking age in Washington State is 21. However, many students do not know that when they turn 21 they lose an important legal right: the right to recover compensation for injuries sustained during childhood that were caused by another person's negligence. For adults the statute of limitations for most personal injury claims is three years. The statute of limitations is the time period in which a claim against the negligent party must be filed in court. For example, if an adult is injured in an automobile accident, he would have three years from the date of the accident to file a claim against the at-fault driver.
There is an exception to the three year rule for childhood injuries.
There is an exception to the three year rule for childhood injuries. This is because the law does not expect, or even allow, minors to enforce their legal rights in court. For childhood injuries, the three year statute of limitations does not begin until the minor turns eighteen years old. An example best illustrates how the law works. Suppose a 12 year old girl is injured in a car accident. She would have three years after her 18th birthday, which would be her 21st birthday, to file a claim against the person who caused the accident. If the claim is not filed in time, then she will forever lose the right to be compensated for her injury. Even in a very severe case where someone is paralyzed, if he does not file a claim in time he will forever lose the right to hold the person who caused the accident accountable. The right to recover for even basic expenses such as ongoing physical therapy will be lost forever.
Don't wait until your 21st birthday to act.
It is important not to wait until just a few months before your 21st birthday to begin thinking about filing a claim. This is because it can be difficult to track down the person who was responsible for the accident. I often see cases where the accident happened many years ago and the client, who was only a child at the time, understandably does not know the name of the person who caused the accident. In these cases I often hire a private detective to investigate the case, track the person down and serve them with a lawsuit, but obviously you would want to give yourself as much time as possible.
Interested in pursuing a claim for a childhood injury?
If you are interested in pursuing a claim for a childhood injury that was caused by another's negligence, you must do so before the statute of limitations runs out. In most cases, this is when you turn 21 years old.