The statute of limitations is a law that defines the maximum period of time in which a lawsuit may be filed. The length of time you have depends upon the type of claim. The statute of limitations allows for peace of mind, minimizes the deterioration of evidence over time, encourages prompt enforcement of the law, and pares down the number of cases in the judicial system.
If you do not follow the appropriate statute of limitations in your case, the court may deny you an opportunity to file a lawsuit or to recover any damages. Any fees or monies paid in the preparation to file a claim will be lost. If a suit has been filed against you and it violates the statute of limitations, you can have the case dismissed in court.
The law regarding the statute of limitations in criminal cases can vary, but in general, felonies must be prosecuted within three years of the date of the offense. Misdemeanors are generally limited to one year. Examples of statutes of limitation in Alabama include:
- The unlawful taking or using of property has a 30-day statute of limitations.
- Sex offenses that involve a minor under the age of 16 carry no statute of limitations.
- Deceptive trade or insider trade practices have a one- to four-year statute of limitations.
There is no time limit to file a criminal case involving capital offenses and felonies of violence, injury, death, arson, drug trafficking, forgery, and counterfeiting.
The Alabama statute of limitations in civil cases depends upon the type of injury. Personal injury cases must be filed two years from the date the damage occurred or should have reasonably been discovered. Toxic substance injury cases accrue when symptoms show. Professional malpractice limits are within 2 years of the injury or six months from the date the injury should have been discovered. Medical malpractice actions have a four-year limit.
Lease-contract related lawsuits must be filed within four years, and product liability cases must be brought within one year of the time of injury or discovery of injury, within a reasonable period of time.
Seek help from a lawyer if you are at all uncertain when the statute of limitations is up in your case.
Tolling extends the statute of limitations by stopping the clock from running due to certain events. Such events include:
- The injury involved a minor at the time of the injury, but the clock begins once minor reaches 18
- The injury involved someone of mental incompetence
- Bankruptcy automatically tolls the statute of limitations
- Negotiations between the parties
Contractual agreements can shorten a statute of limitation period. When signing a lease, employment contract, or other types of contracts, read the document carefully for a change in the statute of limitations.
Statute of Repose
The statute of repose differs from statute of limitations in that it provides legal protection from liability, often product liability. The statute of repose states that regardless of whether an injury occurs after the statute of limitations runs out, a claim cannot be filed after certain period of time.
Doctrine of Laches
The Doctrine of Laches is a term that means you must act on a legal claim in a timely fashion. The reason is to limit lawsuits where a long delay in asserting your rights may have unfairly hurt the opposing party. To avoid this problem, it is important to consult an attorney as soon as possible if you think you have a legal claim.
Statutes of limitations in Alabama can vary. If you are uncertain as to the law in your case, seek help from a lawyer who can help ensure your case is filed in a timely and appropriate fashion. Generally, the statute begins when the claim accrues, which is often, but not necessarily, at the time of the injury.