Statute of Limitations – The Time Limit You Have to Bring a Lawsuit


Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations is the deadline for filing a lawsuit, meaning that most lawsuits must be filed within a specific amount of time. Once the statute of limitations on a case “runs out,” the legal claim is not valid any longer. If an injured party (plaintiff) files a lawsuit after the statute of limitations has run, the court may dismiss (i.e. throw out the case) leaving the plaintiff with no legally enforceable means of recovery or compensation.    

The period of time during which you can file a lawsuit varies depending on the type of legal claim. For example, the statute of limitation in California for most personal injury claims is generally two years from the date the injury, unless the injury was not discovered right away, in which case it would be 1 year from the date the injury was discovered. In contrast, in California, a claim against a healthcare provider (i.e. medical malpractice claim) must be filed 1 year from the date plaintiff knows or should have known about the injury, or 3 years from the date of the injury whichever is the earlier date. 

There are many complex rules (including a large body of case law) governing when a statute begins to run or when it is “tolled” or paused based on various factor such as the specific type of case, the age of the plaintiff, and/or the circumstances surrounding the case, so only an experienced attorney can determine whether or not the deadline to file has passed. Therefore, if you are injured or believe you have a legal claim, it is critical that you contact an attorney as soon as possible in order to preserve your rights.

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