Statute of Limitations - Time Limits for Filing a Civil or Criminal Lawsuit

Published: 29th September 2009
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A statute of limitations is a law, which set outs the time limits within which a civil or criminal lawsuit must be commenced. The limitation depends on the type of claim and whether the lawsuit is filed in federal or state court. Each state has its own statute of limitations.

As a rule, statutes of limitation begin to run on either: The date of the incident; or the date the incident was discovered.

In special circumstances, for instance, an injury to a minor child, the statute of limitations does not begin to run until the child reaches the age of majority (i.e. his or her 18th birthday). Crimes committed against humanity or lawyers who commit fraud in a Court matter are not subject to statutes of limitations because these offenses are considered heinous or subversive. Prosecution for these crimes can happen at any time.

Statutes of limitation exist for several reasons. Memories fade over time and evidence may be lost. The concept of limiting the time for commencement of a lawsuit is to have the matter heard while memories and evidence are fresh and to prevent the stress of an incident overshadowing the parties for an excessive amount of time.

Civil claims must usually be commenced within one to three years determined by the type on the claim.

Examples are: Personal injury within one to two years; professional malpractice within either one to four years from the date of the incident, or six months to three years from the discovery of the incident; fraud within three to six years from the date of discovery of the fraud; breach of oral contract within two to six years, or written contract within three to six years.

Criminal lawsuit limitations are regulated by the form of punishment for the crime, if the death penalty is being sought and whether the lawsuit will be heard in federal or state court. Homicide is not subject to criminal statutes of limitation; it is permissible to prosecute this crime anytime in the future.

If a lawsuit is not filed within prescribed time allowed in the statutes of limitation, the parties will likely be barred from pursing their legal claim through the courts.

To learn more about your legal entitlements, it is important to speak with skilled personal injury lawyers, car and trucking accident attorneys in Manhattan, and a motorcycle accident injury lawyer in New York City.

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