Litigants in federal or state court systems are subject to many different deadlines, depending on the type of case they are filing. These deadlines can come in the form of deadlines for filing pleadings or motions, deadlines for conducting discovery, deadlines for appealing a judgment, and in the form of statutes of limitations. When attorneys miss deadlines, the results can be catastrophic for clients. Missing a deadline can bar a client from bringing or defending a claim—potentially one in which the client would have almost certainly prevailed. When attorneys negligently miss crucial deadlines, compromising the client’s interests as a result, a claim for legal malpractice may be the only recourse the client has.
What Causes Missed Deadlines?
Oversights are responsible for more than half of all missed legal deadlines. This means that attorneys who are generally responsible and careful simply made a mistake in document review or preparation, failed to calendar a deadline, or inappropriately delegated the matter. In some cases secretaries, paralegals, or other support staff may not entirely understand the repercussions associated with a missed deadline. Busy lawyers rely on support staff, therefore those staff members must be properly trained regarding legal deadlines.
Typical Legal Deadlines Which Can Be Missed
The legal system is chock-full of deadlines. Some of those Washington D.C. legal deadlines include the following:
- Medical malpractice claims must be filed within three years of the time the malpractice occurs. Pretrial discovery and the Affidavit of Merit also have specific time limits. A medical malpractice survival action—a case the decedent could have brought had he or she survived is three years
- Personal injury claims must be brought within three years of the date the injury occurred.
- Product liability claims must be brought within three years of the time the injury is discovered or should have been discovered.
- Charges for assault or battery must be brought within one year of the incident.
- Claims for property damaged by a toxic substance must be brought within five years of the date the incident occurred.
- Wrongful death claims must be brought within two years of the time the person dies.
- In the case of a minor, or when the individual is imprisoned or incapacitated, Washington D.C. may toll the start of the statute of limitations. As an example, if a fifteen-year old was seriously injured in an accident, the three-year statute of limitations would not begin until the minor turned 18.
- The Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) is a federal law which allows individuals to bring an administrative claim against the U.S. government for personal injuries. To file under the FTCA, Form 95 must be submitted to the proper federal agency within two years of the time the injured person becomes aware of his or her injury.
- Charges of libel or slander or other intentional harms must be brought within one year of the time the incident(s) occurred.
- Military malpractice (such as that experienced at a military healthcare facility) also falls under the FTCA. Form 95 must be presented within two years of the time the injured person becomes aware of the injury. The time limitations can expire, even if the claimant was unaware the doctors were negligent until more than two years following the injury.
The legal deadline for filing a lawsuit is also called the “statute of limitations.” Every state has different deadlines, and they also vary depending on the nature of the claim, whether the plaintiff is adult or child, and whether a government entity is a possible defendant. We have prepared a summary of the lawsuit deadlines for the District of Columbia here; the Maryland deadlines for filing a lawsuit can be found here; and Virginia’s lawsuit deadlines are summarized here.
There is nothing anyone can do to extend the statutes of limitations, no matter how compelling or important the case. Court-ordered deadlines within a lawsuit occur in all types of legal issues as courts mandate deadlines for complying with discovery and other actions. When an attorney fails to meet these deadlines the case may be dismissed. If you feel your attorney has missed crucial deadlines, which caused you significant harm, talk to a legal malpractice attorney in the D.C. area.
Contact Legal Malpractice Lawyers
At Patrick Malone & Associates, our legal malpractice lawyers understand how devastating it can be when your attorney misses a critical deadline. As experienced legal malpractice lawyers, we have represented individuals and small businesses in the Washington, DC metro area, Virginia, and throughout the State of Maryland. If you believe your attorney committed legal malpractice in a case, it could be in your best interests to speak to a lawyer who is experienced in legal malpractice cases and will ensure your rights are protected.
Our Washington DC legal malpractice attorneys work tirelessly from the very start to protect victims of legal malpractice. Call us at 1-202-742-1500 or 1-888-625-6635 or fill out our confidential contact form for a FREE Consultation and review of your case.
The legal malpractice attorneys at Patrick Malone & Associates have successfully represented injured individuals in Washington, DC, Arlington, Alexandria, Annapolis, Rockville, Baltimore, Richmond, Fairfax, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, and other locations throughout Maryland and Virginia.