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What is a statute of limitations and how long does it last?

What is the statute of limitations? Most people have heard the term before but may not know what it means. The statute of limitations is a law that sets a time limit on how long someone has to file a lawsuit after they have been injured or wronged. The purpose of the law is to ensure that cases are filed in a timely manner and that evidence is still fresh. There are many different factors that can affect the statute of limitations, so it’s important to speak with an attorney if you have been injured and are considering filing a lawsuit. In this article, we will be discussing the statute of limitations in more detail.

What is a statute of limitations?

The statute of limitations is a law that exists where parties involved in a crime have a maximum time limit for a legal proceeding due to a crime that was committed. This statute of limitation begins from the date of the alleged offense, and it can exist for either civil or criminal actions. 

What is a statute of limitations?

How does it work in criminal cases?

In criminal cases, the statutes of limitations can be a bit complicated. Due to these severe offenses such as murder and sexual assault against a minor, the law will not allow the offender to have any statute of limitations. However, depending on the state that someone resides, felony charges may have a three-year statute of limitations. 

Some offenses have specific statutes of limitations like five years or up to ten years in some felony cases, and there can also be no statute of limitations in most severe cases, as mentioned above. 

statute of limitations in criminal cases

How does it work in civil cases?

In civil cases, there are time limits, and getting to know these time limits can be beneficial. Each state may have different time limits for a statute of limitations. 

Still, in Florida, offenses like trespassing, property damage, injury, and oral contracts have a four-year statute of limitation. Slander, libel, professional malpractice, and wrongful death have a two-year statute of limitation, and written contracts have a five-year limitation. 

statute of limitations in civil cases

When are statutes of limitation are waived or extended 

For many having a clean slate is a great thing. As we know, limitations for an offense do exist. What could be even more exciting is that if an individual is not charged with a crime during a particular time, they are not criminally responsible anymore. In some cases, the statute of limitation can be waived only by an agreement between the parties, but be sure this is done carefully with proper consideration. There are also times when a statute of limitation can be extended, although these can also be rare. This extension is called tolling, where an individual may want extra time for any particular reason because the accused is out of state or is a minor. 

The statute of limitations can also be extended through the discovery rule. This rule prevents medical practitioners from escaping liability by medical malpractice. An example of this could be a patient under a doctor’s care and got harmed due to a breach of the standard of care and didn’t know about it until later. 

statutes of limitation waived or extended 

Who decides if the statute of limitations has been met?

An injured person must act in specific ways to protect their legal rights based on the statute of limitations. The time limits on a statute of limitations are critical. If someone who gets into an automobile accident waits too long before filing a lawsuit, they might be barred because that person just waited too long. However, there can always be an exception like tolling, which can reopen the door for justice. The reality is that tons of provisions govern the statute of limitations and who decides if these limitations have been met is left to the court. 

if the statute of limitations has been met

Related Article: Statute of Limitations on Arrest Warrants

Do all states have statutes of limitations for crimes and civil lawsuits?

Every state has a statute of limitations, and there is a particular time when you have to address this case. However, some cases involve serious crimes that have no time in some states, such as murder. Based on each state, every cause of action has a different statute of limitation, and one needs to know their state’s statute of limitations. Here are some states and some of their civil statutes of limitations laws. 

  • New Jersey – six years breach of contract, two years personal injury
  • California – two years statute for personal injury, one-year libel/slander
  • New York – three years statute for personal injury, six years for fraud, three years trespass.
  • Washington – two years libel/slander, written contracts (six years), oral contracts (three years).
  • Arizona – one-year libel/slander, two years professional malpractice, three years fraud.
  • Idaho – two years personal injury, two years professional malpractice, five years for the collection of rent
  • Illinois – written contracts (ten years), oral contracts (five years), one-year libel/slander, five years for injury to personal property
  • Louisiana – one year for personal injury, one year for damage to personal property, for written contracts (ten years), oral contracts (ten years), three years for the collection of debt on an account.

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Nothing implied or stated on this page should be construed to be legal, tax, or professional advice. The Law Dictionary is not a law firm and this page should not be interpreted as creating an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. For questions regarding your specific situation, please consult a qualified attorney.