The most important decision our clients make often occurs before we’ve ever met them. It is to determine when they seek out legal counsel on an issue of harm. Whether a person decides to call an attorney may seem like the first of many steps in vindicating their rights — and it is — but waiting too long before doing so is also fatal to their case. Statutes of Limitations as they are known in most states around the country, or in Louisiana, Prescription, is the length of time an individual may exercise their rights against a party in Court.
The NBA has the shot clock, the NFL the play clock, and in the legal world we have prescription. Unlike those two rather tidy penalties, the former which results in a change of possession and the latter which merely pushes a team back five yards, prescription results in the equivalent to forfeiting the entire game. For that reason, being decisive when you believe another party may have caused injury to you or your property is the key to keeping your legal rights alive. The moment you reasonably believe an injury may have occurred, is the time to seek out legal advice.
When someone has been injured by the fault of another, the injured party has one year from the occurrence of the fault or from the time they first discovered it to bring a lawsuit in most situations. If the injured party fails to file a suit in that period of time, they have lost their opportunity for justice. With many injuries, these dates are quite easy to identify. For instance, no one is ever confused about when or whether their car was t-boned at an intersection. However, things are murkier when land contamination or personal toxic exposure is at issue. Louisiana courts and many others around the country use a rule of “constructive notice” to determine when the “play clock” began running on your legal claim.
Constructive notice is when a reasonable person has received information about a potential injury sufficient that their curiosity about the subject should be immediately raised. That curiosity must lead to a reasonable inquiry on their part to discover whether or not they or their property have been injured. As a simple example, imagine you’re watching the evening news and a report is broadcast that a certain BBQ pit you purchased two months ago has come under a mandatory recall notice for spontaneous explosions. After confirming you have the same BBQ pit, you’re probably not going to wait very long before removing the propane tank from the body of the pit and seeking a refund.
You must have the same resolve for your decision to seek out legal advice in the event you believe you or your property may have been exposed to toxic or hazardous chemicals. The moment you have any information which leads you to worry that an environmental harm has occurred, is the time to reach out to an attorney. This information will come in many forms: smells, sights, unexplained illnesses, a television report, or even from rumors at the local watering hole. So long as the information makes you curious about whether or not you may have an injury, your shot clock has started, call an attorney and don’t forfeit your case because you didn’t act soon enough.
Our attorneys can help you determine whether you have a lawsuit and when to file. To learn about your legal rights, call Stag Liuzza to schedule a free confidential consultation.