The decision to file a lawsuit is difficult, and like with all tough decisions, people procrastinate. However, is there a time limit? If so, how long do you have to file? Here, understanding the statute of limitations is key.
What Are Statutes of Limitations?
A statute of limitations is a law that limits when criminal or civil legal proceedings can start. Both state and federal legislatures decide statutes, so just because there’s one statute in one state doesn’t mean it’s the same everywhere else.
Statutes for different cases aren’t one-size-fits-all, either. A statute of limitations for violent crime will differ from one for libel. And issues of fraud, especially when concerning taxes, often have much longer statutes, like a tax lawyer Columbia, MD from a tax firm like Crepeau Mourges can advise.
How Long Is a Statute of Limitations?
Most states have statutes of limitations lasting at least one to five years, depending on the crime or complaint itself. The laws can vary a lot from state to state, however, so it’s important that you seek legal advice in your area to determine exact time frames.
It’s also important to consider who your defendant is. If you plan to sue a body of government, your presumed year might be as little as 60 to 90 days.
When Does the Statute Start?
So you’ve found out how long the statute of limitations is for your potential case. How do you know when it started?
The date it occurred: If you aren’t sure, it’s safe to assume your statute of limitations starts from the day of the event.
The date you found out: Sometimes you don’t realize something is wrong the day of the event. If you discover information after the fact that leads to a lawsuit—such as a medical complication years following what you thought was a successful surgery—this may be the start of your statute.
Keep in mind that statutes of limitations are laws and subject to whoever hears your case. You may think the statute begins at one time, while the judge rules otherwise.
Can I Still File After a Statute Runs Out?
It may still be worth filing, even if the statute of limitations in your case has run out. Judges often hear cases regardless of the statute instead of dismissing them outright. Of course, the defendant may call attention to the expired statute.
To find out when you need to file a tax lawsuit, reach out to a tax law office near you. Many tax law firms offer free consultations during which they can tell you what your next steps are—and how long you have to take them.