What Does This Mean for You?
You need to know definitively the date by which your claims becomes invalid.
Jurisdiction of Claims
State courts (superior courts) are different than federal courts (district courts) so here we separate these out. In addition, if you are suing a government entity, there is an extra step in filing a “claim” first. This is required prior to filing a lawsuit against the government.
Claims Against Private Parties
Every state has their own statute of limitations for the same tort issue. For instance, for “written contracts,” the limit to file is 3 years for Alaska, 4 years for California, 5 years for Arkansas, 6 years for Arizona, and 10 years for Illinois. All the different torts such as injury, property damage, defamation, etc. have their own limitations varying by state. Targeted America recommends that you verify the statute of limitations by your state and type of tort.
Here is a rough guide for limitations by tort and state for all 50 states. Nolo is a respectable source; nonetheless, even Nolo states “We provide this chart as a rough guide. Check your state's actual statute of limitations for the time limit for your specific claim, because it might be different from what you read here. Then be sure to mark it on your calendar.
Example - California
Here are the California statutes of limitations for some common types:
• Injury to Person
Claims Against Governments
Rules regarding claims against government agencies are different. You file the lawsuit in the same superior court of your state, BUT FIRST you must file a claim with the agency within 6 months (for some cases, 1 year) of the incident. If the claim is denied, you can then file your lawsuit in court but there are strict limits as to when. For example, if you are denied money for your government claim, then you must file in court within 6 months, after that denial, but it could be as short as 60 days, so read the guidelines for your jurisdiction.
Example - California
When you sue a California government agency, you first have to file a special claim (called an "administrative claim") with the government office or agency before you file in court. It is REQUIRED that you use the government’s form to file the claim. It might be on-line or you may have to go to the city clerk or county clerk for the state form.
When you sue a government agency, you first have to file a special claim (called an "administrative claim") with the government office or agency before you file in court. It is REQUIRED that you use the government’s form to file the claim. It might be on-line or go to the city clerk or county clerk or the state form.
After you file your claim, the government has 45 days to respond. If the government agency denies your claim during the 45 days, you have 6 months from date the denial was mailed or personally delivered to you to file a lawsuit in court. If you do not get a rejection letter, you have 2 years from the day the incident occurred to file. But do not count on having 2 years to file your claim. If you have questions, contact your county pro se clinic or contact a lawyer.
Tolling of the Statute of Limitations
There are some situations in which the statute of limitations is suspended (“tolled”) for a period of time, then begins to run again. For example, tolling may happen when the Plaintiff is incarcerated (max 2 yrs.) or the Defendant is out of the state. There are other reasons the statute of limitations can be tolled. Check the rules governing your state.
Claims Against Private Parties
As determined in United States Supreme Court decision in Erie v. Tompkins, federal courts apply the statute of limitations of the state in which the federal court lies. In the vast majority of cases, statutes of limitations begin to run when the cause of action arises.
Claims Against the Government
In a normal lawsuit claiming negligence, you proceed more or less straight to court. But if you wish to sue under the FTCA, within 2 years you must first file a claim with the federal agency responsible for the alleged misconduct. For example, if your claim is based on an accident at the post office, you would file your claim with the U.S. Postal Service. During this phase of the process, while your claim is being reviewed by the federal agency, it is referred to as an "administrative claim."
Although not strictly necessary, the easiest way to prepare your administrative claim is to use the federal government's standard claim form, known as a Standard Form 95 or SF 95, which has boxes for all the information you will need to provide. You can get a copy of the form from the Department of Justice's website www.usdoj.gov, type "standard form 95" into the search box or request a copy from the federal agency to which you will be submitting your claim.
Administrative Claim Process Overview
You don't have to sue until the agency rules on your claim. If the federal agency fails to rule on your administrative claim within six months, you have the choice of either waiting for the agency's decision or going ahead with your lawsuit. As long as the federal agency is still considering your claim, there is no time limit for you to file a law suit in federal court; the six-month time limit only begins to run once the agency has ruled on your claim.
Once you have gone through the procedures listed above -- a process known as "exhausting your administrative remedies" -- you are eligible to file a lawsuit in federal court to pursue financial damages from the government.