"Statutes of limitations" are laws that set time limits on how long you have to file a "civil" lawsuit, like a personal injury lawsuit, or how long the state has to prosecute someone for committing a crime. These time limits usually depend on the legal claim or crime involved in the case, and they're different from state to state. For example, in some states you may have three years to file a personal injury lawsuit after you were hurt in car accident, but in other states you may have two years. As a general rule:

  • The time period begins to run on the date your claim arises or "accrues," like the day of the car accident, or when a crime is committed, and
  • Once the statute of limitations has expired or "run," you can't file a lawsuit (or be prosecuted for a crime)

Below are the statutes of limitations in Massachusetts for various civil claims and crimes. The list doesn't cover everything. Also, the laws may change at anytime, so be sure to check the current laws and read them carefully, or talk to an attorney if you have any questions.

Civil

Note: Most of the civil statutes of limitations are in Chapter 260 of the Courts, Judicial Officers and Proceedings in Civil Cases portion of the Massachusetts General Laws or "code." You can scroll through the laws in that Chapter to find the statute of limitations for civil claims or "causes of action" not listed below.

Description

Statute

Assault and Battery, 3 years

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 260, § 4

Contract (in writing), 20 or 6 years (Depending on if the contract is "under seal")

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 260, § 1(1) or Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 260, § 2

Contract (oral or not in writing), 6 years

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 260, § 2

False Imprisonment, 3 years

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 260, § 4

Fraud, 3 years

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 260, § 2A

Enforcing Court Judgments, 20 years

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 260, § 20

Legal Malpractice, 3 years

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 260, § 4

Libel, 3 years

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 260, § 4

Medical Malpractice, 3 years

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 260, § 4

Personal Injury, 3 years

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 260, § 2A

Product Liability, 3 years

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 260, § 2A

Property Damage, 3 years

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 260, § 2A or Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 260, § 4

Slander, 3 years

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 260, § 4

Trespass, 3 years

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 260, § 2A

Wrongful Death, 3 years

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 229, § 2

Criminal

Note: The criminal statutes of limitations generally are in Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 277, § 63 of the Crimes, Punishments and Proceedings in Criminal Cases part of the Massachusetts General Laws. You can scroll through the criminal laws (found in Part IV, Title 1) to find crimes not listed below, and then use § 63 to find the statutes of limitations for those crimes.

Description

Statute

Arson, 6 years

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 277, § 63

Assault and Battery, 10 or 6 years (Depending on the facts of the case)

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 277, § 63

Burglary, 6 years

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 277, § 63

Disorderly Conduct, 6 years

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 277, § 63

Kidnapping, 6 years

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 277, § 63

Manslaughter, 6 years

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 277, § 63

Murder, first degree, No time limit

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 277, § 63

Murder, second degree, No time limit

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 277, § 63

Rape, 15 years

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 277, § 63

Receiving Stolen Property, 6 years

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 277, § 63

Robbery, 10 years

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 277, § 63

Theft, 6 years

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 277, § 63

Tagged as: Criminal Law, Consumer Law, Contracts, Massachusetts, statutes of limitations, statute of limitations, statute of limitation, statutes of limitation, limitation on actions, limitations on action, limitations of action, limitation of actions time limit, time limits, time limitations, felony, misdemeanor, attorney, attorneys, lawyer, lawyers, legal, law firm, Lawyers.com, legal articles