If a lawyer does not file a case in time - the statute of limitations is blown. With very few exceptions that means the plaintiff (the person bringing the suit) has lost their rights. Sometimes there are ways around it such as the accidental failure of suits statute, or maybe a different claim can be brought. Just maybe there is more time on the statute of limitations, it is not always an easy calculation.
Years ago a client came in and said my lawyer told me he missed the statute of limitations and that I should get a lawyer to sue him. Well the lawyer did make a mistake, he used the wrong statute to figure the statute of limitations. It turned out there was plenty of time to sue. I told the client to go back to the lawyer and have them bring the claim. The lawyer said no - great news - have Stanger do it for you. We did and recovered a good deal of money for the client. The lawyer was not sued.
This demonstrates two things.
First even though the lawyer screwed up in his calculation there really was time for the client to still pursue the claim. Even though the lawyer screwed up there was no point in suing him as there was still plenty of time to sue the original defendant. The lawyers screw up did not cause any damage to the client other than a few scary days. Life is good - our client did well, we had a very happy client because we knew what we were doing and the system worked. The correct person was sued and paid - the one that really caused the damage.
Second if the lawyer had really blown the statute, eliminating the client's right to sue, he would have caused the damage and he would have been the right one to sue. We would have won that case as well. Our client would have been ok.
If you have questions about the statute of limitations, if you have lost confidence in your lawyer, or if your lawyer screwed up, contact our office, to discuss your legal malpractice options.