How Colorado Statutes of Limitations Work

Colorado, like every other state, has time limits for filing certain legal claims and for prosecuting people for particular crimes. These laws limit the time for bringing lawsuits and most criminal charges so that evidence and witness testimony can still be verified to prove liability and damages. These laws also allow defendants to have a reasonable opportunity to defend themselves. Evidence and witnesses do not last forever, and the passage of time can erode reliability and accurate recollection.

Effect of Statute of Limitations

If you fail to bring a legal claim or lawsuit within certain time limits, you may be forever barred from pursuing that claim. The statute of limitations can also prevent the state from filing criminal charges against you if too much time has passed. Exceptions can toll the statute or extend it.

It is important that you consult an attorney in Colorado to determine your cause of action. Your attorney can identify other responsible parties, verify when your injury or loss occurred, and file your case in the proper court to preserve your legal remedy.

Criminal Statute of Limitations

Some crimes in Colorado are not subject to any time limits for pursuing offenders. These include murder, kidnapping, conspiracy, and attempt or solicitation to commit these offenses.

Similarly, the crimes of forgery, treason and sex offenses against a child, as well as any attempt, solicitation or conspiracy to commit these crimes do not have time limitations. Perpetrators can be charged at any time.

All other felonies must be charged within three years, except vehicular homicide and leaving the accident scene of a fatality, which is five years. Misdemeanors have an 18-month statute of limitations; petty misdemeanors have six months.

Civil Statute of Limitations

Colorado has different filing limits based on the type of claim:

  • Negligence: two years
  • Negligence or injuries involving a car accident: three years
  • Wrongful death: two years
  • Medical malpractice: two years with discovery rule
  • Civil fraud: three years from the act or date when it should have been discovered
  • Contracts: three years, whether written or oral

The discovery rule allows certain injury or financial claims that may not be easily determined to not expire until the injury or loss is discovered or should reasonably have been discovered.


In certain circumstances, the statute of limitations can be tolled, or put on hold, until a certain event occurs. For example, filing a bankruptcy automatically stays any civil proceeding to collect a debt until the bankruptcy is over or the creditor is able to lift the stay. If a claimant was mentally incompetent at the time of the loss, the statute is tolled until the disability ends.

Children under the age of 6 have until their eighth birthday before the statute of limitations for medical malpractice lawsuits begins to run.

In criminal cases, the statute of limitations for a particular crime is tolled for up to five years if the offender is gone from the state. For crimes where DNA evidence identifies the defendant and the offense has been reported to law enforcement within 10 years of the offense, there is no time limit on filing charges.

Talk to a Colorado Lawyer

Talk to a Colorado lawyer about any legal claims you may have or possible criminal prosecution against you. Determining which statute of limitations applies to your case can be daunting. Your Colorado attorney can advise you if your case is within the statute of limitations and if not, whether it can be tolled or if other causes of action can still be timely brought.

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