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Statute of Limitations


How much time do I have to file a lawsuit?

One of the most commonly misunderstood, but crucially important aspects of civil law concerns the timeframe that controls when a civil suit can be brought.  We often receive calls from persons with cases that would likely be successful at trial, but are barred by the applicable statute of limitations.  In light of the confusion, this article will provide a brief overview of what statutes of limitations are, their purposes, and will further provide a general overview of the time constraints of the most common legal actions.

What are statutes of limitations?

Statutes of limitations are specific laws passed by the Legislature that essentially proscribe time limits in which specific legal actions must be commenced.  Statutes of limitations serve a number of purposes, the most logical of which being the prevention of frivolous actions, helping to ensure evidence remains available and useful, and keeping the court system as efficient and cost-effective as possible.

What happens if the time has elapsed?

The simple and practical effect of a statute of limitations “running” (meaning the expiration of the time period) is that the action can no longer be brought.  While Court’s can “toll” the statute of limitations (meaning extending the period or just allowing the action to be brought), such requests are not typically granted and are generally reserved for situations where the plaintiff was a minor at the time of the accident or otherwise legally incompetent.  Accordingly, it is important to know how much time is available to bring any particular action and to ensure suit is filed appropriately.

How much time do I have to file my lawsuit?

Generally, the applicable statute of limitations will begin to “run” (i.e. the clock starts) either at the moment the harm and/or basis for the suit occurs, or when the Plaintiff learns about the harm/basis.  While Tennessee law is constantly changing, the following provides a general overview of the most common civil statutes of limitations:

Personal Injury – T.C.A. § 28-3-104One (1) Year
Libel – T.C.A. § 28-3-104One (1) Year
Slander – T.C.A. § 28-3-103Six (6) Months
FraudUnspecified
Injury to Personal Property – T.C.A. 28-3-105(1)Three (3) Years
Professional Malpractice – T.C.A. 28-3-104One (1) Year
Trespass – T.C.A. § 28-3-105(1)Three (3) Years
Collection of Rents – T.C.A. § 28-3-109(1)Six (6) Years
Collection of a Debt on an AccountSix (6) Years, or by agreement
Judgments – T.C.A. § 28-3-110(2)Ten (10) Years

 

There is no doubt that the law can be tricky.  The principles of justness and fairness that govern our legal system are not satisfied when individuals miss the opportunity to set things right, all because they did not start in time.  If you are thinking about bringing a civil suit and have questions about its timeliness, or any other question about the law and court process as a whole, do not hesitate to contact one of the quality, experienced attorneys at Batson Nolan to help set things straight.

 

If you need help understanding statue of limitations, contact an experienced Batson Nolan attorney. With hundreds of years of combined legal experience at Batson Nolan PLC, we are committed to our clients and to achieving results that exceed expectations.