What is prescription? I wanted to file a complaint for damages against the bus line that hit me and caused my ailment, but it has been 23 years. I did not seek any assistance from them, but a relative told me that I should file a suit or action against them. When I consulted a lawyer-friend, she told me that my action has already prescribed. What did she mean by this? Is it true?
Dear Jon V.,
As used by our Civil Code, prescription is a means of acquiring “ownership and other real rights through the lapse of time in the manner and under the conditions laid down by law. In the same way, rights and conditions are lost by prescription” (Article 1106). Article 1139 of the said code also states that, “Actions prescribe by the mere lapse of time fixed by law.” These limitations in time, otherwise known as statute of limitations, are scattered throughout our laws. For civil actions, the Civil Code fixes the time when an action prescribes.
On the other hand, an action or a cause of action is “the act or omission by which a party violates a right of another” (Rule 2, Sec. 1, Revised Rules of Court). In order to assert one’s right which was violated by another, he or she may file an action or suit in court.
According to your letter, you were hit by a bus twenty three (23) years ago. This type of incident is considered under our laws as a quasi-delict. “[A] quasi-delict as a source of civil obligation wherein by the act or omission of somebody, there being fault or negligence, he causes damage to another for which he is liable to the latter. There must be no pre-existing contractual relation between the parties” (Pineda, Torts and Damages, 2004, pp. 6-7).
When a quasi-delict occurs, the plaintiff or the injured party may claim damages against the respondent or the one who inflicted the injury. In order to claim, the plaintiff must prove that there was damage to the plaintiff, the respondent was negligent in the act or omission that caused the damage, and there is a connection of cause and effect between the negligence and the damage inflicted (in Pineda, Torts and Damages, 2004, citing Vergara vs. CA, 154 SCRA 564 and FGU Insurance Corp. vs. CA, 287 SCRA 719).
Article 1146 of the Civil Code states the time when an injured party may claim damages due to a quasi-delict. It says:
“The following actions must be instituted within four years:
(1) Upon an injury to the rights of the plaintiff;
(2) Upon a quasi-delict;
In order for you to file a claim for damages in court, you should have filed your case within four (4) years after the accident. It appears that since you failed to file any action to claim for damages on the accident that occurred twenty three (23) years ago, your action has already prescribed. This means that you cannot file any action for damages against the bus company anymore.
We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter. Please be reminded that this advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated.