In the world of personal injury there are two types of injury: the immediate and the delayed.
- The immediate injuries are usually the result of a sudden trauma, such as a fall, an automotive collision, or a similar accident. With immediate injuries you know that you have been injured at the moment of the accident, or very shortly after – like feeling whiplash pain the day after a rear-end collision. Immediate injuries also tend to have visible signs, such as bruises, contusions, and broken bones at the site of the injury, so that it is easy to recognize that an injury exists.
- Delayed injures could be the result of a trauma, but are most often the result of exposure to something dangerous, like asbestos, or a medical mishap, such as the misdiagnosis or mistreatment of an illness. With delayed injuries you might not realize that you have been injured until months, and even years, after the incident. Delayed injuries also tend not to have visible signs at the site of the injury, but signs and symptoms do show up long after the initial incident.
For example, someone who develops mesothelioma from inhaling asbestos dust won’t have any bruising, contusions, or discoloration around the mouth or nose to show where the asbestos entered his body. However, he will develop the signs and symptoms of mesothelioma, such as a cough, and lumps growing under the skin, years later.
People with delayed injuries often have difficulty seeking justice.
Problems with Delayed Injuries
The biggest problem with delayed injuries is that it’s often difficult to pinpoint the cause. For example, mesothelioma can take up to 50 years to develop, so someone who worked for several different companies that used products with asbestos over the years could have a difficult time determining when and where he was exposed. Perhaps he was exposed at all his jobs, or perhaps there was one specific employer that was responsible. If he can’t pinpoint the employer, he might have to file a suit against the entire asbestos industry, which could be very difficult because the companies that make up the industry could band together and hire expensive lawyers to avoid paying.
Another issue is that there are statutes of limitations on personal injuries, and every state is different. The plaintiff has a certain amount of time that he can file after he discovers his injury, and once the deadline has passed he is no longer eligible to file. When the injury is a serious illness, the plaintiff could get so wrapped up in dealing with tests, treatments, and other medical issues, that he misses the deadline.
The final issue is that even if the plaintiff manages to file a suit within the statute of limitations, with a serious and terminal disease like mesothelioma, it’s possible that the plaintiff could die before the case ever goes to court. If that happens, the defendants could move to have the case thrown out, since the injured party is no longer alive, and prevent surviving family members from getting justice on behalf of their loved one.
In most cases, the best solution is for the plaintiff to consult with a personal injury lawyer as soon as he realizes the injury. There are several different types of personal injury lawyers that specialize in different areas. For example, someone who developed mesothelioma would be better off with an attorney who specializes in asbestos cases than with one who primarily handles medical malpractice.
Another solution is to join or start a class action suit. Class action suits have multiple plaintiffs all suing the same defendant for the same issue. The benefits of a class action suit are:
- Many law firms do not charge up front for their services. Instead, they take a percentage of the settlement;
- You have multiple people making the same complaint, which strengthens your case;
- The case isn’t dependent on one plaintiff, so if any of the plaintiffs die before the case goes to trial, it will be harder to argue throwing it out of court;
- If a plaintiff dies, his family could still receive his portion of the settlement;
- Class action suits can be a way around statutes of limitations. Individuals can participate in the class action suit even if, as an individual, they have missed the deadline for the statute of limitations.
This article was written by Jenna Brown. Jenna is a freelance writer who has been blogging on random topics from law to business since her days in college, feel free to e-mail her if you would ever like to have her write for you!
Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and Michelle Meiklejohn.