Attorneys Pursuing Justice in Missed Statutes of Limitations Cases

Statutes of limitations (aka SOLs) are the filing deadlines for court cases. There are other important filing deadlines, such as service on the defendants within the specified timeframe, or responding to a complaint if you are the defendant. Discovery also has associated deadlines for interrogatories and for producing documents. Failing to meet these deadlines can mean a case is thrown out, and there may be no recourse in the court system to revive a case with a missed deadline.

If you have suffered financial losses due to an attorney missing a legal filing deadline, you need an experienced legal malpractice attorney to help you evaluate the case. This is because different jurisdictions have different laws and local rules. Some court rules are particular only to malpractice cases which require a careful understanding of the rules and requirements involved.

Also, because special circumstances, such as the recent COVID-19 pandemic which caused lengthy court closures can bring about “tolling” of the statutes, the appropriate deadline can be complicated to determine.

Statutes of Limitations

Statutes of limitations refers to the length of time when a case can be legally brought and pursued by court action. When the statute of limitations has run out, there is no more time available for filing a case. Missing a statute of limitations for filing can be a cause for legal malpractice because the underlying case is now dead in the water.

Obviously the underlying case must have had merit, and the failure to file must lead to damages for the client. Economic damages must be evidenced in order to pursue a legal malpractice claim against an attorney. For this and many other reasons, it is important to have a legal malpractice case evaluated by an experienced attorney, like the lawyers at Wallace Wason, PLLC.

Filing Deadlines

Certain timelines begin to run once a lawsuit has been filed with the courts.  In Virginia, a plaintiff in a case has one year to serve the defendant with the lawsuit. Once the defendant has been served, they respond to the Complaint within 30 days, or they are ‘in default.’ Once requests for information in discovery, such as Interrogatories or Requests for Production of Documents are served, deadlines for substantive responses begin immediately.

In addition, the Court may order that the parties appear or submit filings in the case. If attorneys miss these deadlines, the consequences can be sanctions by the court which can negatively impact your case. If this happens, you may have a valid case for legal malpractice.

Tolling of Statutes

In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in court closings and ‘tolling’ of the statutes of limitations in some courts. This means that the deadline for filing may be extended by the amount of time the court suspended operations. This is different in each jurisdiction and requires careful inspection of the local Court’s orders regarding the tolling of statutes. For instance, Washington DC statutes are different from Virginia statutes.  Maryland is different still.

Other reasons for tolling of statutes can include the defendant’s absence from the state, or the plaintiff’s incapacity or fraud. These tolls are on a case by case basis, so be sure to consult a knowledgeable attorney in your jurisdiction.

Are Missed Statutes of Limitations a Valid Legal Malpractice Claim?

Whether you have a valid case for legal malpractice depends on a number of factors, as you can see. This is why you should contact us today for a free, confidential legal malpractice case evaluation today: 703-638-7717.  Our skilled intake staff is ready for your call.