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In civil law, plaintiffs have time limits in which to file a claim. These time limits are known as “Statutes of Limitations.” These laws are in place to ensure that claims are made while evidence is still fresh. They also help prevent the constant “threat” of a lawsuit hanging over a defendant indefinitely. Generally speaking, the clock starts running at the time an injury is suffered. But that’s not always the case. It could also be the point when the injury (or its cause) is discovered. The so-called “discovery rule” allows a suit to be filed within a certain time after the injury is discovered or reasonably should have been discovered.

Additionally, the statute of limitations may be “tolled” — or paused — for a period of time. This may happen if the plaintiff was a minor (under 18) or mentally incompetent at the time the injury occurred. Also, statutes of limitations may be shortened through a contract.

 

Type of Legal Claim Statute of Limitations
Injury to Person Two years
Libel/Slander One year
Fraud Five years (for concealment of a cause of action)
Injury to Personal Property Five years
Professional Malpractice Medical: Two to four years
Legal: Six years
Trespass Five years
Collection of Rents Four years
Contracts Written: Ten years
Oral: Five years
Collection of Debt on Account Written agreement: Ten years
Oral agreement: Five years
Judgments Twenty years