A statute of limitations is a law that
defines a maximum period-of-time within which a lawsuit or claim
may be filed. A statute of limitations may differ depending on
the circumstances of the case and the type of case or claim.
The statute of limitations may differ from
state to state as well as whether or not the case is filed in
a federal or state court. If a lawsuit or claim is not filed before
the deadline of the statute of limitations, the right to sue or
file a lawsuit is barred. In some cases, the statute of limitations
may be extended.
There are several reasons for having a statute of limitations.
The first is fairness. Over time, people may not remember events
exactly as they happened, evidence may be lost, and people wish
to move on with their normal lives without worrying about a legal
The injured party is also responsible for being diligent in bringing
the lawsuit with speed and efficiency. This is also to be fair
to both parties and allow all parties to continue on with their
life without dealing with a lawsuit as well as because the value
of evidence diminishes over time.
There are different categories of statute of limitations and
are divided into civil and criminal claims. The different kinds
of statute of limitations for civil claims, in general, are as
- Negligence. Personal injury has a statute of limitations
of one to two years and intentional wrongdoing is one to six
- Breach of Oral Contract has a statute of limitations
of two to six years.
- Breach of Written Contract has a statute of limitations
of three to six years.
- Professional Malpractice. If it is medical malpractice,
one to four years from the act or occurrence of injury is the
statute of limitations. The statute of limitations also allows
for six months to three years from discovery. Certain conditions
will extend this statute of limitations including if the injured
person is a minor, foreign object or fraud. With legal malpractice,
the statute of limitations is one to three years from date of
discovery or two to five years from the wrongful act.
- Fraud or Mistake has a statute of limitations of three
to six years.
- Claim Against a Government Entity usually has a statute
of limitations of less than one year.
- Federal Income Taxes have a statute of limitations
of ten years on collection of federal taxes.
- Enforcement of Civil Judgement has a statute of limitations
of five to twenty-five years.
When the case is a criminal case, there are limitations on the
time a criminal prosecutor can bring a criminal action against
someone who has entered into illegal acts. These restrictions
are based on whether the case is filed in federal or state court,
the type of punishment recommended for the crime, and whether
the death penalty is part of the recommended punishment. Generally,
there is no statute of limitations for homicide cases.
There are certain circumstances in which the statute of limitations
may be extended. These circumstances include a delay in the discovery
of the injury or harm for which the lawsuit is being filed or
a delay in the discovery of the injury or harm for which a lawsuit
would be filed. And, if the injured person is a minor, the statute
of limitations is extended until the minor turns the legal age