Every state in the United States has its own laws for time limits for filing lawsuits and other civil actions. This is called the statute of limitations. New York’s statutes of limitations are very much in line with most other states.
Though every lawsuit depends on the specific type of case or legal procedure and process, the statute of limitations in New York can range anywhere from one to six years. Usually, this time limit starts on the date of the actual incident in question and sometimes on the date of the discovery of the incident or wrongdoing.
Basically, a statute of limitation is the time limit you have for filing a lawsuit against a person or party who wronged you and is at fault. If you do not bring a lawsuit to bear within the statute of limitations, then the opposing party is going to file a motion to dismiss the entire case based on missing the time allowed by law to have filed. If a judge dismisses your case, then you no longer have any legal claim on it, ever.
Here is a short summary of civil statutes of limitation in New York State. Note that these can change as laws and regulations change:
- Libel and Slander: 1 year
- Medical Malpractice: 2.5 years
- Foreign object in the body of a patient: 1 year
- Injury to Person: 3 years
- Injury to Personal Property: 3 years
- Professional Malpractice: 3 years
- Trespassing: 3 years
- Fraud: 6 years
- Collection of Rents: 6 years
- Contracts: 6 years
- Collection of Debts on Account: 6 years
- Recovery of Judgments: 20 years
Statutes of limitations exist for general practicality and fairness. A wronged party in every situation has to decide whether or not to bring a suit against their perpetrator to recover damages or other justice.
The law does not want to tolerate or reward procrastination, or anyone who delays things on purpose just for effect or intimidation, is negligent or forgetful, so they put a time limit on how long a person has to bring forward an official lawsuit. Once that time period has passed, the person wronged cannot sue.
This limit is also intended to keep the integrity of any physical evidence intact, as well as the stories of any witnesses. It also removes the threat of any “indefinite” lawsuit, which could possibly be used to blackmail and extort people.
Some of the shortest statutes of limitations involve one person being physically injured by another. According to the courts, if you are injured but do not sure within 3 years (different for other states), then it is reasonable to assume that you either forgot about the injury or it wasn’t as serious as first assumed. The person who injured you is protected from being sued many years later.
The longest statute of limitation, as shown above, are those concerning recovery of judgments after a lawsuit. “Recovery of judgment” refers to collecting the money owed to you after winning an award in a lawsuit. It it up to you to take the legal steps necessary to make the debtor pay you the judgment. This involved many legal means and procedures and can be complicated and messy. Because both parties are fully aware of the original judgment, if the losing party refuses to pay, the winning party has a right to sue them again, even as much as 20 years later.
If there is no specific legal statute of limitations for an instance, it can mean that there is no law governing that particular incident and then general civil statutes typically will apply.
For acts like fraud and breach of contract, it makes sense that the time limits are longer, as the injured party may not discover the fraud or the breach of contract until several years after the initial fraud or breach occurred. Wage law violations and medical malpractice cases are an example of this. A patient may not know malpractice occurred until years later when new symptoms present themselves. This is also an example of the timing on a statute of limitation not starting until the discovery of the injury – as opposed to when the wrongdoing originally occurred.
In addition, statute of limitation in a suit involving injuries to a minor generally will not begin until the minor turns 18. For example, in New York, the statute of limitations for personal injury is 3 years. If your child is injured in a bicycle accident on her 17th birthday, the child will most likely be allowed four years (the three-year limitation plus the one more year until she turns 18) to file the suit.
Because the statute of limitations is different for each type of case, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible after any incident or if you have been wronged or injured, in order to understand your rights and the timeline for filing a lawsuit to recover the compensation you deserve.
The lawyers at the Law Office of Mitchel Ashley can help you understand the complicated world of legal time limits and different types of lawsuits. They are compassionate and experienced personal injury attorneys who are ready to work with you and make sure that justice is served.