In every state, different legal claims have different statutes of limitations. Additionally, some case types can have different statute of limitations depending on the facts of the case. A statute of limitations is a law that lays out how long a person has to bring a lawsuit after an event occurs.
Statutes of limitations are extremely important and can make or break a case. It is a matter of procedure that all lawyers or individuals filing a case should research before moving forward. If a person does not bring a lawsuit within the set time period, they may lose their right to do so forever. This is a mistake that can be easily avoided by keeping informed about your state’s applicable law.
For example, say a person is injured in a car accident caused by the other driver. In most situations, the statute of limitations for this type of case is 2 years. If the person files a lawsuit against the other driver 2 years and 1 day after the accident happened, the statute of limitations will have run and that person will be prohibited from bringing that case.
To understand when a specific statute of limitation applies, you first need to be familiar with the elements of different causes of action. To qualify as a breach of contract, generally the following things need to occur:
- A contract needs to be formed between two or more parties. This revolves around promises made between the parties and can be oral or written, depending on the type of contract;
- One party fails to fulfill their duties under the contract. For example, if there is a sales contract and the buyer does not pay for the goods received, this would be a breach of the contract; and
- The other party is damaged in some way by the breach.
After a breach occurs and it is not remedied, the injured party can choose to file a lawsuit. The complaint will need to be filed within your state’s statute of limitations time period.
For breach of contract actions, the statute of limitations time periods vary widely between the states. Currently, they range from 3 to 15 years. Generally speaking, most states have longer statutes of limitations for written contracts, and shorter statutes of limitations for oral contracts. However, some states give a person the same time to file for both types of contract.
In general, the statute of limitations for contract claims begins to “run” (the clock starts ticking), once the facts that give rise to an action on the contract, such as breach or grounds for rescission, come into being. It usually does not matter when the party actually discovers the action.
Below is a chart of each state’s statute of limitations. This covers both written and oral contracts. However, please note that the information below is a general guide as these numbers can change. If you are thinking about filing a breach of contract action, you should double check your state’s current statute of limitations for the most up to date information. Hiring a lawyer to help you with this would also be helpful.