Relation Back in Washington, D.C. Personal Injury Cases

After a plaintiff files a Washington, D.C. personal injury case, the need may arise for the plaintiff to file an amendment to their complaint. It may be possible to add a previously unnamed party, add or remove a claim, or correct a party’s name. Depending on the amendment, there can be major implications regarding the applicable statute of limitations. Thus, in order to understand why the concept of relation back is important, one must first be familiar with statutes of limitation.

Generally speaking, a statute of limitations provides for the timeframe in which the plaintiff has to file a lawsuit. The statute of limitations usually starts to run at the time of injury; however, there are extenuating circumstances in which the statute of limitations does not begin to accrue until a later date. Once the statute of limitations expires, the plaintiff can no longer pursue a claim against the defendant. In Washington, D.C., the statute of limitations for personal injury actions is three years.

A recent opinion issued by a state appellate court discussed the concept of relation back, and why it is so important.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was injured while at a water park. The day before the relevant statute of limitations expired, the plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit, naming the state’s Department of Natural Resources as a defendant. The plaintiff later voluntarily withdrew that lawsuit. She then filed this lawsuit against the State Park Authority, which was a different government entity. However, by the time the plaintiff filed her second lawsuit, the statute of limitations for her claim had expired.

The State Park Authority moved to dismiss the case, arguing that it was filed after the expiration of the statute of limitations. The trial court agreed, dismissing the plaintiff’s case. The plaintiff then appealed.

On Appeal

On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the two defendants, although different entities, were both a part of the same overarching entity, and that her second claim should relate back to her first, making it timely. However, the court held that the two defendants were technically different entities, and that the plaintiff’s second complaint did not relate back to her first because the two named different defendants. The court acknowledged that the two entities are “attached” for “administrative purposes only,” but “retains its separate identity.” As a result, the plaintiff’s case was dismissed and she will not be able to pursue a claim against those responsible for her injuries.

Have You Been Injured in a Washington, D.C. Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Washington, D.C. slip-and-fall accident, contact the dedicated Washington, D.C. personal injury lawyers at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC. Throughout our over 20 years representing injury victims across Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., we have learned the importance of precision and diligence, and ensure that our clients’ cases comply with every procedural rule, no matter how technical. To learn more about how we can help you with your situation, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

Pursuing a Personal Injury Claim against a Negligent Washington, D.C. Employer, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, February 5, 2019

Texting While Driving Is a Major Cause of Washington, D.C. Car Accidents, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, January 24, 2019

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