Statute of Limitations

A statute of limitations is a law that places a deadline on certain types of legal actions, such as a personal injury lawsuit. In most cases, the limitation period is determined by a specific event, such as the date that an injury occurred.

The statute of limitations for personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits in most states is two years or three years. However, some situations can extend the length of time that plaintiffs have to file their claim, such as if the injury occurred to a minor or if the injury was not discovered immediately after the event that caused it.

See Also

Statutes of limitations specific to certain types of lawsuits are listed on some of our other pages:

Statute of Limitation Types

There is no single statute of limitations. State laws and federal laws set different periods of time in various civil and criminal statutes. Furthermore, some statutes have exceptions that can extend or shorten the deadlines by which legal claims must be submitted.

Types of Statutes of Limitations for Civil Cases

  • Assault/Battery
  • Breach of Contract (written or oral)
  • Damage to Real Property
  • Debt Collection
  • Emotional Distress
  • Fraud
  • Medical Malpractice
  • Negligence
  • Product Liability
  • Sexual Conduct
  • Slip and Fall Accidents

Some states may also have a general statute of limitations for civil cases, which covers situations that do not have a statute of their own. While many state statutes are related to the most common types of civil cases, some states may have additional laws that address other or more specific types of injury.

Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Statutes

The table below provides an overview of each state’s statutes of limitations period for civil claims related to personal injury and wrongful death. Note that:

  • Certain exceptions can increase or decrease the amount of time you have to file a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.
  • Some states have other, more specific statutes for things like medical malpractice, premises liability, child abuse, sexual assault and other forms of negligence or assault.
  • Personal injury statutes are typically measured from the date the injury occurs, though in some cases the clock starts from the date an injury is discovered.
  • Wrongful death statutes are typically measured from the date of the victim’s death.
  • Most states have separate statutes for asbestos-related actions.
  • These deadlines are accurate to the best of our knowledge, but some states may have changed their statutes due to newly passed laws or court decisions.

This chart should be used only as a rough guide. To get legal advice regarding the specific time period for your case, browse our active lawsuits and request a free case review.

Period of Limitation by State

See Your State’s Filing Deadline
StatePersonal Injury StatuteWrongful Death Statute
Alabama2 years2 years
Alaska2 years2 years
Arizona2 years2 years
Arkansas3 years1 year
California2 years2 years
Colorado2 years2 years
Connecticut3 years2 years
Delaware2 years2 years
Florida2 years2 years
Georgia2 years2 years
Hawaii2 years2 years
Idaho2 years2 years
Illinois2 years1 year
Indiana2 years2 years
Iowa2 years1 year
Kansas2 years2 years
Kentucky1 year1 year
Louisiana1 year1 year
Maine6 years2 years
Maryland3 years3 years
Massachusetts3 years3 years
Michigan3 years3 years
Minnesota2 years3 years
Mississippi3 years3 years
Missouri5 years3 years
Montana3 years3 years
Nebraska4 years2 years
Nevada2 years2 years
New Hampshire3 years3 years
New Jersey2 years2 years
New Mexico3 years3 years
New York3 years2 years
North Carolina3 years3 years
North Dakota2 years2 years
Ohio2 years2 years
Oklahoma2 years2 years
Oregon2 years3 years
Pennsylvania2 years2 years
Rhode Island3 years3 years
South Carolina3 years3 years
South Dakota6 years2 years
Tennessee1 year1 year
Texas2 years2 years
Utah2 years2 years
Vermont3 years2 years
Virginia2 years2 years
Washington3 years3 years
West Virginia2 years2 years
Wisconsin3 years3 years
Wyoming4 years2 years
Source: Justia U.S. Laws, Codes and Statutes; California Courts; New York Courts

Tolling: Extending the Deadline to File

In some cases, federal and state codes allow a statute of limitations to be extended based on certain circumstances that are out of the plaintiff’s control. This extension is known as “tolling.”

Which limits can be tolled differs for each jurisdiction. Some of the most common reasons for tolling include:

Even with tolling, there may still be hard time limits (known as statutes of repose) for filing a lawsuit. For example, some states do not allow plaintiffs to file lawsuits against a company for products that have been on the market for several years, even if the statute of limitations is tolled.

Equitable Tolling

Even when there is no statute that allows tolling, judges can sometimes extend filing deadlines through a common law practice known as “equitable tolling.” The specific situations that allow equitable tolling vary dramatically from state to state, and some states do not allow equitable tolling at all.

Deadlines for filing can be extended or limited in many different ways. Talk to our experienced lawyers to learn more about the laws in your state.

Civil Lawsuits for Criminal Conduct

Some states have statutes that allow longer limitation periods for civil lawsuits resulting from criminal conduct, including conduct that would have been criminal at the time under current law. Examples include:

  • Wrongful death due to homicide
  • Sexual offenses against a minor
  • Other sex crimes

Not every state has such laws, and the ones that do vary significantly. We can connect you with lawyers who understand the time limits for your individual case.

Statute of Limitations Terminology

Cause of Action

The cause of action is the event that gives a plaintiff standing to file a lawsuit. For personal injury cases, it is the activity (purposeful or negligent) that leads to injury. Typically, the clock for filing a lawsuit starts on the date that the cause of action occurs.

Discovery Rule

A law that allows the statute of limitations to start when the plaintiff first discovers an injury (or should reasonably have discovered the injury), rather when the injury first occurred.

Statute of Repose

An upper limit on how long a filing deadline can be extended. Statutes of repose can override tolling for statutes of limitations.

Tolling

A law or judgment that extends the period of time that a personal injury lawsuit may be filed in certain circumstances.