When you were injured in a car crash or hurt in a slip-and-fall accident, you thought your injuries were minor and assumed they would heal pretty quickly. Months later, you find out that you had a hidden injury that didn’t manifest right away, like a slipped disc in your back that has gradually put pressure on and damaged the nerves in your leg. Now you’re having trouble walking and you’re not able to keep up at work.

It isn’t too late to file a personal injury claim. While it’s always ideal to get a medical exam and treatment immediately after you’re injured, some injuries simply don’t show up right away — even with an exam. That’s why Massachusetts gives injury victims three years to pursue compensation for injuries under its statute of limitations.

What is a statute of limitations?

The statute of limitations is essentially the time you’re given to pursue a claim against another party for your losses. It’s designed to keep people from being hit with lawsuits ten or twenty years after an incident while still allowing for the fact that it isn’t always possible to make a claim for damages right away. Each state determines its own statute of limitations for injury claims.

Does the statute of limitations always apply?

Not exactly. Normally, the clock starts ticking on the statute when you’re injured. But what happens if you had no reasonable way to know you were hurt? For example, people who were exposed to asbestos on their jobs may not discover they have been injured until they develop cancer decades later. In those cases, the court may make an exception.

If you were injured due to someone else’s negligence or recklessness, you need to take action as soon as possible. An attorney can help you better understand your rights and what needs to be done to protect your interests.