What Is a Statute of Limitations?

People filing a lawsuit usually ask the same question: what is a statute of limitations? The statute of limitations sets a period to begin litigation. Time frames depend upon the cause of action and the state in which it occurs. The statute aims to prevent malicious and lengthy cases. It ensures parties settle legal matters promptly, and the rule helps preserve evidence. Vital evidence, like witness testimony, can be a challenge after long periods of time.

Failing to sue before the statutory deadline will lead to a dismissal with prejudice. That would bar the plaintiff from recovering compensation for damages and losses. Per Cornell Law School, the statute of limitations is usually a legislative ordinance. Yet, the rule may also fall under common law in some places.

  • The statute restricts the time frame to file civil and criminal lawsuits 
  • The purpose is to make sure those with reasonable cause pursue the case with due diligence
  • Attempting to litigate an old case could mean losing valuable facts and evidence 

Continue reading for more information on the statute of limitations. The article will provide information, including the purpose and requirements of the legislation. 

What is a statute of limitations?

A statute of limitations enforces the time to start legal proceedings. The clock begins to run on the date of the accident or the alleged offense. The legislation breaks down the time limits depending on the nature of the lawsuit or offense. It will also depend on the jurisdiction the proceeding occurs within. Once the statute expires, cases of all types are too old to initiate proceedings and litigate. 

In criminal law, the statute of limitations sets a period of time for filing charges. Varying time frames depend on the severity of the offense. The period will also change if filing occurs in state or federal courts with the United States Department of Justice.

  • The time limits under the statutes depend on the classification of the dispute or offense 
  • There are time limits for filing criminal charges on the federal and state level

An experienced attorney could handle your legal work using matter management software. Technology, including legal calendaring software, ensures that lawyers never miss a deadline.

What is the personal injury statute of limitation?

Tort or personal injury statute of limitations is the court-enforced time limit for filing civil matters. Accidents due to careless or reckless actions fall within the tort law statutory deadline. The statute’s expiration depends on the state where the legal dispute arises. Some exceptions may also apply depending on the specifics and location.

If petitioners file after the statute expires, the court will likely dismiss the claim without hearing it. That will leave them with no other options for recovering damages and losses. The statute of limitations is among the most critical laws to be aware of in civil lawsuits. 

  • The injured party has a set period to file a civil lawsuit against the negligent party
  • The time limits for personal injury claims vary depending on the state the plaintiff files a civil lawsuit 

An experienced legal professional could answer specific questions after reviewing the case. Legal communication management allows for client communication from anywhere.

How long is the statute of limitations?

The statute of limitations depends on the state and the case type. There are statutes for civil and criminal matters on the federal and state levels. The most heinous criminal offenses, such as murder, do not have a statute of limitations. Civil lawsuits are usually two to three years from the cause of action. However, the period in some states ranges from one to ten years.  

There are exceptions to the regulation in most jurisdictions. Courts allow time extensions for reasons, including discovery or the plaintiff’s age. The discovery rule is for parties who did not know they sustained injuries immediately. The time begins to run on the day they reasonably discover the damages. When a minor sustains injuries because of a person’s negligence, the statute’s clock starts to run on their 18th birthday. 

  • The exact time limit to file a legal action depends on the state and the type of case
  • There are some exceptions to the statute, including lawsuits involving minors and the discovery rule   

Call a personal injury lawyer to go over cases and determine deadlines and potential exceptions. Legal document management software allows attorneys to organize and locate documents within seconds. 

What is an example of a statute of limitations?

An example of the statute of limitations for personal injury cases is a legal dispute resulting from a person’s negligence. The statute’s clock will begin ticking on the day of the accident. If the statutory deadline is two years in the accident’s jurisdiction, the plaintiff must sue within that time. 

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