What is the discovery rule?

When thinking of cases of tragedy, you may be surprised to learn that there is a statute of limitations in place for a variety of crimes. This would bar an individual from pressing charges against another party after a certain time period has lapsed. A wrongful death case surprisingly does.

In the state of Pennsylvania, an individual has only two years to file a claim for wrongful death, beginning with the date of death. However, there are factors that give cause to alter this beginning date for the statute of limitations. So, while two years may seem like a more than sufficient amount of time to file a claim, it may pass by without you even knowing it.

The “discovery rule” is one of these factors that alters the statute of limitations. This rule boils down to the idea that an individual may find out about the cause of his or her death or loved one’s before or after it happens, thus starting the statute of limitations from that date. For example, suppose an individual underwent surgery and a surgical tool was left inside his or her body. It is discovered, but he or she cannot afford to have it removed, and later dies from this situation. The defending party may use the discovery rule to argue that that person knew of the cause of his or death, and the statute of limitations may start from that date.

While that is perhaps an extreme example, the discovery rule can also be used advantageously. If the cause of death is discovered at a later date than the death itself, it may be possible to begin the two year statute of limitations on that day.

In any case, what situations warrant the alteration of the day the statue of limitations begins are complex and varied. The discovery rule is just the beginning of this complex topic. It is important to consult a lawyer the possibilities of a wrongful death case and that statute of limitations that comes with it.