Statutes Of Limitations – Why They Matter

“Where did the time go?” We ask this question all the time, whether we have a deadline approaching quickly, or we are enjoying a few more hours on the beach during the last day of a vacation. We often find ourselves thinking we have more time, until we don’t. When talking about Statutes of Limitations, it is important to make sure that you don’t let time fly by and find yourself without any left. Failing to act in time can have unfortunate consequences and could leave you (and you pockets) empty handed.

Statutes of Limitations apply to many areas of law and they control the amount of time you have to act. Much like a deadline at work, in most cases if you don’t do what you have to do in the time you are given, mostly bad consequences will result. At work, you may get scolded by a boss. In the law, you may miss out on your opportunity to sue someone, charge someone, or recover money that others owe you. In all those cases, running out of time is never a good thing and it often leaves you with no possibilities to get more time.

The statute of limitations for your case will depend on the area of law in which your case falls. In most cases, people are dealing with the limitations period for personal injury. In Maryland, the limitations period for personal injury cases is three years. This means that if someone injures you in a car accident and you would like to sue, you have three years to do so. If you wait too long, then most likely you are out of luck. You can still sue, but the defendant will have an absolute defense and you will lose your case. So it is very important for you to know the limitations period for your injury. For most areas of civil law, the statute of limitations is three years. These include:

  • Contracts (Oral Contracts and those in writing without seal)
  • False Imprisonment
  • Fraud
  • Legal Malpractice (which hopefully WE ALL never have to worry about)
  • Medical Malpractice (The lesser of 3 years after discovered or 5 years after injury)
  • Personal Injury
  • Product Liability
  • Property Damage
  • Trespassing
  • Wrongful Death

These are just a few examples for you. It is important to know that the limitations period begins to run when you know or should have known of your injury. So claiming you didn’t know you were injured in a car accident until your neck started hurting a year later will not change the fact that the clock was already ticking.

Another area of law where it is important to know the Statute of Limitations is with the enforcement of judgments. When a court decides that one party (creditor, ex-spouse, former client) owes another party money, there becomes a judgment against the debtor saying that he/she owes money to the other party. This judgment can include certain requirements such as a wage garnishment, an account levy, a lien on some property, or it can simply state that one party must pay the other money. When this judgment is filed, the clock starts ticking on the limitations time. For judgments in Maryland, the statute of limitations is 12 years.

It is very important to keep track of how much time has elapsed since the judgment was entered. Twelve years may seem like a long time, but people are often unable or unwilling to pay what they owe and before you know it, 12 years will have passed. Once that time runs out, the judgment no longer exists and the party no longer has to pay. In order to avoid the expiration of a judgment, a party can file to renew the judgment. You want to be sure to renew the judgment before the time elapses. Once 12 years has passed, the judgment will no longer exist and there will be nothing to renew.

As you can see, the Statute of Limitations can play a big part in your claim. It is one of the first things attorneys think of when discussing a case with potential clients. Whether you want to sue someone or are worried about being sued, it is important to know the time limits imposed by the statute of limitations.

If you have a possible claim against someone, don’t wait around to take action. Contact Fred Antenberg to discuss your claim and he can help explain the statute of limitations and your options for moving forward. Act quickly so you don’t find yourself asking, “Where did the time go?”