Time Limits to Bring a Case: The "Statute of Limitations"

The “statute of limitations” provides for the rules on the time limit when an action can still be filed. If not followed, the action can forever be barred and the claimant cannot be able to raise his claim anymore. In spite of the general rule throughout the federal state, every state may have its own specific statute of limitations. This means that you might need the assistance of an experienced lawyer who is familiar with the specific rules of a state. The specific limit prescribed by each state ranges from one year (in Kentucky and Tennessee) to six years (in Maine and North Dakota).

In other states, the time limit may also be affected by the personal injury sustained by the victim. To give an example, defamation cases that involve minors can be granted longer limits. On the contrary, malpractice incurred and punishable by medical statutes can be granted shorter time limits. This is in recognition of the urgency to file the claim and the discernment capability of the person. Ordinarily, prescription would only begin to run once the person involved is already 18 years old. For example, suppose Pat is injured in a car accident on his 17th birthday. In a state that has a two-year statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits, Pat will have three years to file suit for injuries suffered in that accident.

The “Discovery of Harm” Rule

In spite of the given limit in the time when a person can validly raise his claim before the court, the time period will not necessarily run until the person interested has a knowledge that a violation has actually been committed. This is called the “discovery of harm rule.” Indeed, one cannot be expected to start a suit if he is not even aware that he has right that have been violated. In such a case, the patient had no reason to know of what happened, and this lack of knowledge could not be called unreasonable under the circumstances. For example, when surgeons commit mistakes of leaving inside a patient’s body, something that should have been taken out, the patient will not be able to realize this until he experiences actual side effects.

However, it should be noted that the delay in the discovery must be coupled with being reasonable. It cannot be grounded on the fact that the interested party has been negligent in his duties. Otherwise, a claim can even be barred by the statute of limitations in spite of the lack of knowledge. In most cases, the discovery of harm rule is usually not present in car accidents because after the accident, the facts are there staring at the witnesses and there is no need to discover a hidden fact.

The Statute of Limitations in Your State

As what has been already stated, the states in the federal may have specific rules on statute of limitations. The specific limit can be seen in the following chart.

(Note: State laws are frequently revised from year-to-year, so it is important to speak with an attorney to understand how your state’s current laws will apply in your case, especially in areas as critical as the statute of limitations. Remember also that special time-limit rules exist for injury claims against the government).

State Statute of
State Law
Alabama 2 years Ala. Code Sec. 6-2-38
Arkansas 2 years Alaska Stat. Sec. 9.10.070
Arizona 2 years Ariz. Rev. Stat. Sec. 12-542
Arkansas 2 years Ark. Stat. Sec. 16-114-203
California 2 years Cal. Code of Civ. Proc. Sec. 335.1
Colorado 2 years Colo. Rev. Stat. Sec. 13-80-102
Connecticut 2 years Conn. Gen. State. Sec. 52-584
Delaware 2 years Del. Code Ann. Title 10, Sec. 8119
District of Columbia (D.C.) 3 years D.C. Code Ann. Sec. 12-301
Florida 4 years Fla. Stat. Ann. Sec. 95.11
Georgia 2 years Ga. Code Ann. Sec. 9-3-33
Hawaii 2 years Haw. Rev. Stat. Sec. 657.7
Idaho 2 years Idaho Code Sec. 5-219
Illinois 2 years Ill. Ann. State. Ch. 735, Art. 5, Sec. 13-202
Indiana 2 years Ind. Code Ann. Sec. 34-11-2-4
Iowa 2 years Iowa Code Ann. Sec. 614.1
Kansas 2 years Kan. Stat. Ann. Sec. 60-513
Kentucky 1 year Ky. Rev. Stat. Sec. 413.140
Louisiana 1 year La. Civ. Code Ann. Art. 3492
Maine 6 years Maine Rev. Stat. Ann. Title 14, Ch. 205, Sec. 752
Maryland 3 years Md. Ann. Code Sec. 5-101
Massachusetts 3 years Mass. Gen. Laws, Art. 260, Secs. 2A, 4
Michigan 3 years Mich. Comp Laws Sec. 600.5805(9)
Minnesota 2 years Minn. Stat. Ann. Sec. 541.05, 541.07
Mississippi 3 years Miss. Code Ann. Sec. 15-1-49
Missouri 5 years Missouri Ann. Stat. Title 35, Sec. 516.120
Montana 3 years Mont. Code Ann. Sec. 27-2-204, 27-2-207
Nebraska 4 years Neb. Rev. Stat. Sec. 25-207
Nevada 2 years Nev. Rev. Stat. Sec 11.190
New Hampshire 3 years N.H. Rev. State. Sec. 508.4
New Jersey 2 years N.J. Stat. Ann. Sec. 2A:14-2
New Mexico 3 years N.M. Stat. Ann. Sec. 37-1-8
New York 3 years N.Y. Civ. Prac. R. Sec. 214
North Carolina 3 years N.C. Gen. Stat. Sec. 1-52
North Dakota 6 years (2 in wrongful death) N.D. Cent. Code Sec. 28-01-16, 28-01-18
Ohio 2 years Ohio Rev. Code Sec. 2305.10
Oklahoma 2 years Okla. Stat. Ann. Title 12, Sec. 95
Oregon 2 years Ore. Rev. Stat. Sec. 12.110
Pennsylvania 2 years 42 Pa. Con. Stat. Sec. 5524
Rhode Island 3 years R.I. Gen. Laws Sec. 9-1-14
South Carolina 3 years S.C. Code Ann. Sec. 15-3-530
South Dakota 3 years S.D. Comp. Laws Ann. Sec. 15-2-14
Tennessee 1 year Tenn. Code Ann. Sec. 28-3-104
Texas 2 years Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Sec. 16.003
Utah 4 years Utah Code Ann. Sec. 78-12-28
Vermont 3 years Vt. Stat. Ann. Title 12, Sec. 512
Virginia 2 years Va. Code Sec. 8.01-243
Washington 3 years Wa. Rev. Code Ann. Sec. 4.16.080
West Virginia 2 years W. Va. Code Sec. 55-2-12
Wisconsin 3 years Wisc. Stat. Ann. Sec. 893.54
Wyoming 4 years Wy. Stat. Ann. Sec. 1-3-105

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