Is it too late to file a lawsuit?

A statute of limitation is a law that prescribes the period to file a legal claim. In general, once the statute of limitation “runs out” the legal claim cannot be pursued. 

The duration under which you can file a lawsuit varies depending on the type of legal claim and related conduct. Some unlawful conduct could extend the deadline, or “toll” a statute of limitation. 

Statutes of Limitation for claims based on state law (vs. Federal) vary among states. To figure out a specific legal claim deadline, you will need to know what state law applies and review that state’s law on the statute of limitation.  

Often the trigger date to start the statute of limitation is defined when the “cause of action accrues.” This type of language is not always helpful to decide the triggering date therefore calculating the deadline may require legal analysis of cases having decided a dispute about deadline. A cause of action accrual may be disputed, especially if you are close to the deadline in filing a lawsuit. 

Deciding the claim deadline and triggering date may be a challenge if there is a series of events, though often the triggering date for many claims is when the unlawful conduct is discovered by the person or entity harmed. 

In Arizona, Arizona Revised Statute §12-550 general statute of limitation requires that all claims must be brought within four (4) years of the triggering date unless another statute applies.  

Other statutes for specific types of claims may be shorter or longer, such as: 

Breach of a written contract for a debt has a six-year statute of limitation. Arizona Revised Statute §12-548. 

Breach of a verbal debt obligation or fraud has a three-year statute of limitation.  Arizona Revised Statute §12-543. 

Claims for injury to property or person, conversion, trespass, or defamation have a two-year statute of limitation. Arizona Revised Statute §12-542. 

Libel, slander, wrongful termination and violation of a statute based claims have a one-year statute of limitation. Arizona Revised Statute §12-541 

Some crimes, such as murder, often have no statute of limitation period.  

Federal Law-Constitution Statutes of Limitations 

Time limits for violations of constitutional rights will depend upon the rights violated and procedural requirements. There is no statute of limitation contained within the language of 42 USC §1983, for claims against public entities. However, The United States Supreme Court decided in the case, Owens v. Okure, 488 US 235, 240 (1989) that 42 USC §1988 requires courts to use analogous state statutes of limitation for federal constitutional violation claims under  42 USC §1983. 

Tolling 

Statutes of limitation can be suspended (“tolled”) for a time. Tolling can occur if a party pursuing a claim is a minor, is out of the state, or if the injury is not discovered right away. When the reason for the tolling ends, the statute of limitation period will continue to accrue. 

If you have any doubts about how to calculate the time you must file a claim, you should consult with a lawyer who focuses on the specific type of claim or area of law because they will understand the nuances of calculating the statute of limitation deadlines and will analyze your circumstances to provide clarity. 

The information does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information is for general informational purposes only. The information offered may not constitute the most up-to-date information. Any Links to other websites suggested are only for the convenience of the reader, A. Ferraris Law, PLLC and its members do not endorse the contents of the third-party references. 

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