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Maryland’s Discovery Rule Extends Statute of Limitation in Some Personal Injury Cases

Under Maryland law, a three-year statute of limitations generally applies in personal injury cases. This means that an injured person has three years to bring a personal injury lawsuit based on his or her injuries. One question that many people ask when they learn about this time limit is, “Three years from when?” Under the statute that generally applies to personal injury cases, a lawsuit must be filed within three years from the date it accrues. So, knowing when a cause of action “accrues” is an important aspect of any personal injury case. If you are considering bringing a personal injury case in southern Maryland and have questions about what statute of limitations applies to your case, contact the Law Office of Robert R. Castro at 301.870.1200

When Does a Personal Injury Cause of Action Accrue?

In general, a personal injury claim accrues when the incident that gives rise to it occurs. Often, but not always, this is the date that the incident (or accident) occurs. In some cases, however, the law provides extensions to this general time limit. One such extension is created by what is known as the “discovery rule” in personal injury cases. Under this rule, the statute of limitations first begins to run in a personal injury case when the injured party, or plaintiff, first knew or reasonably should have known of the wrong that gives rise to the claim. In the context of his rule, “knowing” about the wrong is called “actual notice,” while the concept of a plaintiff’s reasonable knowledge (that he or she “reasonably should have known”) is referred to as “inquiry notice.”

Application of the Discovery Rule

A federal court in Maryland recently had occasion to consider application of the discovery rule in Brocious v. United States Steel Corp. The plaintiff in this case was the deceased plaintiff’s wife who, in her capacity as the representative of her husband’s estate, sued various manufactures of benzene-containing products. The plaintiff claimed that benzene, which was contained in chemical solvents used by her husband, who had worked as a pressman for newspapers and printing companies for over forty years, caused her husband to develop bone marrow disease.

The defendants filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s personal injury claims based on the statute of limitations. The defendants argued that the plaintiff had “inquiry notice” of his personal injury claims when he first received his diagnosis of bone marrow disorder, which was more than three years before the date the personal injury lawsuit was filed. The plaintiff argued that the husband did not have “inquiry notice” until after the initial diagnosis, when he visited a Walgreen’s to pick up a chemotherapy drug prescription and was handed a brochure discussing the connection between benzene exposure and bone marrow cancer. The court agreed with the plaintiff, and denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss the personal injury claims. The court could not find that, at the time of the initial diagnosis, the husband had enough information for “inquiry notice” or that, at that time, a reasonable person’s investigation of what was then an unspecified bone marrow failure would have led to investigating benzene products.

Knowing what statutes of limitations applies, and whether there are any applicable extensions, is a key component of any personal injury case. If you are considering bringing a personal injury case in Charles county, Prince George’s County, Calvert county and St. Mary’s County, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer today.