What Are Statutes of Limitations?
Statutes of Limitations: You have probably heard of this funny phrase, “Statute of Limitations”, but chances are you don’t know what it means. However, it is an important legal concept to understand, especially if you are ever involved in a legal matter. Basically, a statute of limitation refers to a law (a “statute”) that says how much time a person has to assert a right. If you don’t assert your rights before the deadline prescribed by the law, you may well be out of luck.
Common Events Where Statutes of Limitations Arise: If you are involved in any sort of dispute – with a neighbor, or a business, or a landlord for example – you only have a certain amount of time to file a legal action against the other party to enforce your rights. The amount of time depends upon the nature of the dispute and other factors, such as whether there is a written contract or all exchanges were verbal. In Arizona, the time to bring a lawsuit over a written contract is 6 years; however, if it is a verbal contract, then it is only 3 years. Why is this? Because memories of the parties and witnesses fade over time, so it makes sense that a verbal contract action must be filed sooner than a written contract action. Personal injury cases are another common area of law where statutes of limitations are very important. In Arizona you must file a legal action within two years of the incident causing the injury or you may well be prohibited from doing so.
The following list identifies many common statutes of limitations in Arizona. The laws can change, so these are for reference only and you should consult an attorney for advice on your particular case.
Injury to Person False imprisonment; 1 yr. §12-541; if not 2 yrs
Libel/Slander 1 yr. §12-541
Fraud 3 yrs. §12-543(3)
Injury to Personal Property 2 yrs. §12-542
Professional Malpractice Medical: 2 yrs. §12-542
Trespass 2 yrs. §12-542(3)
Contracts Written: 6 yrs. §12-548; Oral (for indebtedness): 3 yrs. §12-543(1)
When Does the Clock Begin to Run?: Understanding the time of the statute of limitations is only one consideration. Another important factor is to understand when the clock begins ticking. The answer is generally “when you knew or should have known that you had a claim”. For example, if you are in a car accident, you are usually aware of your injuries and who caused it. In that case, the statute of limitations begins running on the day of the accident. However, there are other situations where others may do something that has caused damages for you but you are not aware of it at the time. This might arise in a business relationship, for example, where other parties take action that harm you financially or otherwise. In that case, the statute of limitations to bring a lawsuit does not begin until you become of aware of the incident and its negative impact on you.
Things Can Get Complicated: While statutes of limitations sound relatively simple, they can actually be rather complicated. There are often questions of who is liable; who did what and when; different legal remedies; etc. Therefore, it is prudent to consult an attorney if you have any reason to believe you have a potential legal claim and to get advice on the applicable statute of limitations.
If you have any questions on the above or any other legal matter, please contact us.
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The information provided is intended to give general information only and not to provide advice on specific legal issues. If you need our assistance interpreting any information, please feel free to contact us.