Did I Wait Too Long To File My Lawsuit?
Recently, my client was sued for breach of contract and the contract was over 10 years old. I filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit against him, and argued to the judge that the matter was beyond the “statute of limitations,” or the mandated time period upon which a court case can be filed. The judge agreed. The lawsuit against my client was quickly dismissed, saving him significant expenses and headache.
This begs the question, how long can you wait to file a lawsuit?
The time limitation will depend on the type of case and the financial loss you have suffered. For example, any case for personal injury from an automobile accident must be brought within two years of the accident. However, the limit is five years for property damage caused by another person negligently operating a vehicle. Actions for a breach of a written contract must be brought within five years of when the contract was broken, and three years for an oral contract. A lawsuit for libel, slander, or defamation generally must be brought within one year from when the statements were made or published.
Criminal charges also have limitations. While there are a number of exceptions, misdemeanors must be prosecuted within one year from when the crime occurred. Virginia does not have a statute of limitations for felony cases. The statute of limitations can also come into play in family law cases. There is a five year limitation on filing for divorce on adultery based grounds (if the adultery happened more than five years ago, you cannot use it as a ground for divorce).