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.
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
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 talk with a lawyer about what time period applies to your case, browse our active lawsuits and request a free case review.
Period of Limitation by StateSee Your State’s Filing Deadline
|State||Personal Injury Statute||Wrongful Death Statute|
|Alabama||2 years||2 years|
|Alaska||2 years||2 years|
|Arizona||2 years||2 years|
|Arkansas||3 years||1 year|
|California||2 years||2 years|
|Colorado||2 years||2 years|
|Connecticut||3 years||2 years|
|Delaware||2 years||2 years|
|Florida||2 years||2 years|
|Georgia||2 years||2 years|
|Hawaii||2 years||2 years|
|Idaho||2 years||2 years|
|Illinois||2 years||1 year|
|Indiana||2 years||2 years|
|Iowa||2 years||1 year|
|Kansas||2 years||2 years|
|Kentucky||1 year||1 year|
|Louisiana||1 year||1 year|
|Maine||6 years||2 years|
|Maryland||3 years||3 years|
|Massachusetts||3 years||3 years|
|Michigan||3 years||3 years|
|Minnesota||2 years||3 years|
|Mississippi||3 years||3 years|
|Missouri||5 years||3 years|
|Montana||3 years||3 years|
|Nebraska||4 years||2 years|
|Nevada||2 years||2 years|
|New Hampshire||3 years||3 years|
|New Jersey||2 years||2 years|
|New Mexico||3 years||3 years|
|New York||3 years||2 years|
|North Carolina||3 years||3 years|
|North Dakota||2 years||2 years|
|Ohio||2 years||2 years|
|Oklahoma||2 years||2 years|
|Oregon||2 years||3 years|
|Pennsylvania||2 years||2 years|
|Rhode Island||3 years||3 years|
|South Carolina||3 years||3 years|
|South Dakota||6 years||2 years|
|Tennessee||1 year||1 year|
|Texas||2 years||2 years|
|Utah||2 years||2 years|
|Vermont||3 years||2 years|
|Virginia||2 years||2 years|
|Washington||3 years||3 years|
|West Virginia||2 years||2 years|
|Wisconsin||3 years||3 years|
|Wyoming||4 years||2 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:
- When the victim is a minor, such as with birth injuries, or sexual abuse by a priest or boarding school official
- When the plaintiff is a victim of fraud, such as a doctor who lies to a patient to hide medical malpractice
- When an injury is not discovered until a later date, such as with mesothelioma or some cancer misdiagnosis cases
- When the victim suffers from a mental disability or is declared mentally incompetent
- When the defendant is out of the state or country, making it more difficult for the plaintiff to file a suit against him or her
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.
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.
Because deadlines for filing can be extended or limited in many different ways, it is best to talk with a lawyer who is familiar with 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. Find a lawyer to understand the time limits for your 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.
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.
A law or judgment that extends the period of time that a personal injury lawsuit be filed in certain circumstances.