What is a "Statute of Limitations?"

ISTOCK IMAGE ID 2856842After an incident occurs, plaintiffs have a limited amount of time in which to file a lawsuit. This time limit is called a “statute of limitations.” In regards to a personal injury case, the statute of limitations begins when the plaintiff is injured or becomes aware of the injury. Most lawsuits have to be filed within a statute of limitations. Once the statute of limitations is over, the legal claim is no longer valid.

Below is the general guidelines to statute of limitations in California for common legal disputes. It is important to note that some crimes that are particularly abhorrent, such as murder, do not have a statute of limitations. You should also always talk to a lawyer to figure out a statute of limitations, because it can vary a great deal depending on the circumstance.

In a case involving an injury to a person, meaning the defendant hurts the plaintiff without intending to, the statute of limitations is two years from the date of the injury. This includes personal injury accidents, wrongful death, assault, battery, or other negligent acts.

If the defendant damages or destroys the plaintiff’s property without intending to, the plaintiff has up to 3 years from the date the property was damaged to file a lawsuit. This includes crashing a vehicle, trespassing, fraud, and nuisance.

In cases of libel or slander, meaning the defendant defames the plaintiff in print, writing, pictures, or verbally, the statute of limitations is 1 year.

If an oral contract is violated, the plaintiff has 2 years from the date the contract was violated to file a lawsuit. If a written contract was violated, the statute of limitations is 4 years.

When filing a lawsuit against a health care provider for medical malpractice, the time limit may be 1 year from the date the plaintiff became aware or could have reasonably known of the injury, or 3 years from the date the injury. Statute of limitations for medical malpractice can vary a great deal depending on the circumstance. It is also important to note that when filing a lawsuit against a health care provider, you are required to give them 90 day’s notice before filing.

If you are filing a lawsuit against a bank for paying a check that was signed without authorization, you have 1 year from the date the bank paid out the funds to file a suit.

Filing a lawsuit against a government agency can be more complicated in regards to statute of limitations. Generally, you have 6 months from the time of the injury to file an administrative claim, which is a special claim you file with the government office or agency before you file in court. You have to use the government’s form to file the claim. After you file a claim, the government has 45 days to respond.

When to file a court case depends on whether your administrative claim is denied or not responded to. If the claim is denied, you have 6 months to file in court from the date the denial was mailed. If your claim is not responded to, you have 2 years from the date the incident occurred to file in court. Always talk with a lawyer about the statute of limitations for filing your suit.


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