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What is a Statute of Limitations?

A Statute of Limitations is a law that sets forth the maximum period for which one can wait before filing a lawsuit regarding a particular claim. In other words, these statutes define the time period in which you must sue another person who has wronged you.

If you fail to file a lawsuit against that person within the proper time, you will be forever barred from doing so. The main reason behind these types of laws are primarily so that the "truth" comes out. For example, letís assume that you are injured in an automobile accident in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania has a two-year Statute of Limitations for claims of injury. This means that you must file your injury lawsuit within two years of the date of the injury (which is likely the date of the accident). The statute ensures that any claims will be filed in a timely manner, so that the true facts of the case can be found. Common sense will tell you that the facts are more likely to be accurate if they are reviewed sooner after the accident than later. Memory of things tends to fade as time goes on. Imagine if you waited 20 years to file an injury claim as a result of an accident. What is the chance that your memory of the facts of the incident are accurate? Compare that with your memory of the facts one year after the accident, or one month after the accident. The main reason for limitations of time to file lawsuits is an attempt to preserve the accuracy of the information regarding the claim.

Different Statutes of Limitation apply to different types of legal issues. As I am a Pennsylvania Attorney, I will address the other types of time limitation statutes in PA. In Pennsylvania, as mentioned, personal injury claims have a two year Statute of Limitations. There is an exception to this rule, if the defendant is the Commonwealth or a governmental subdivision. In that instance, the time limitation is only six (6) months. Any claims involving libel, slander, defamation or invasion of privacy have a one (1) year Statute of Limitation. Any claims involving Contracts, such as a sales agreement or a warranty, have a four year Statute of Limitations. A five (5) year Statute of Limitation applies to any claims involving an action for revival of a judgment lien on real propertyComputer Technology Articles, or an action for specific performance of the sale of real property or for damages for noncompliance therewith. A twenty (20) year Statute of Limitation applies to any type of contract that is under seal.

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Greg Artim is an attorney based in Pittsburgh, PA. Please be sure to visit his website at for answers to your other legal questions.

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