1. There is a limited amount of time in which you can file a lawsuit after a wrongdoing.
In Virginia, for example, there is a two year limit of injuries to a person, libel, slander or fraud. There is a five year statute of limitations for injury to personal property, trespassing and breach of written contracts. After this time has passed, the window of opportunity has closed for filing a lawsuit.
2. There is a limited amount of time in which a prosecutor must file criminal charges against someone after they’ve been arrested.
Of course, time limits do not apply to the most serious crimes such as rape or murder. But statutes of limitations for other less serious offences are meant to protect the integrity of evidence and maintain justness in our justice system.
In Virginia, most misdemeanors are given a one year time limit. There is also a five year statute of limitations for cruelty to animals and tax evasion, for example.
3. There are exceptions to statutes of limitations.
In some cases, a person is not aware that they’ve been wronged or injured until a significant amount of time has passed. For example, in the case of medical malpractice, a patient may not know that their doctor botched their surgery until unexpected symptoms arise a few years later. In another example, a woman may not become aware that her male counterparts were paid a significantly higher income until a few years down the road. In these cases, the “clock” starts ticking on the statute of limitations at the moment of discovery.
4. There are complicated rules about when the “clock” starts ticking.
It’s hard for anyone other than a lawyer to figure out when the clock starts ticking on a statute of limitations. Why? Because the timer doesn’t necessarily start counting down at the moment a crime is committed. For example, if a suspect flees the state, the timer stops. A fugitive could live out-of-state for decades with the timer on pause, but when they re-enter the state the statute of limitations starts ticking again.
5. It’s important to hire an attorney as soon as possible.
Since there are many factors in determining the time limits for filing a lawsuit, it’s always better to work with an attorney. The sooner you hire an attorney, the more time they will have to build a case for you before the statute of limitations runs out.