What is a statute of limitation?

The phrase "statute of limitations" refers to the limited period of time within which you can file a lawsuit against someone who harmed you. By default, in the state of Maryland, you have a period of three years after the act which caused you the harm to file a civil lawsuit.  (The clock usually starts running on the date you were harmed, but not always: see below regarding an exception.)Read the Law: Maryland Code, Courts and Judicial Proceedings, Section 5-101

HOWEVER, some types of cases have a different limitation period, by law. For example, the limitation period for assault, libel, or slander is one year. Read the Law: Maryland Code, Courts and Judicial Proceedings, Section 5-105

Failure to file the lawsuit within the allowed period of time can result in permanently losing the ability to bring that lawsuit. If you have questions about your suit or its timing of filing, contact an attorney for advice.

How do I know when my statute of limitation begins?

Once you have found out how the statute of limitations rule applies to your case, you need to decide when your right to make the claim for damages in court started (and therefore, determine when it will expire). In most cases, the statute of limitations period starts running on the date you were “harmed.” It is like the “sell by” expiration date on a quart of milk. You cannot “sell” your claim to the court after the time period has expired.

For example: Assume you are harmed on August 1, 2006. You consult an attorney and find out that the statute of limitations for your case is 3 years. You will have until August 1, 2009 to file a claim in court. If you file on August 21st and the other side claims that the statute of limitations has expired, or “run,” the case is likely to be dismissed. The time frame for you to file your claim has expired.

The date you were “harmed” refers to:

  • The date your property was harmed;
  • The date that the contract or agreement was broken; or
  • The date you were injured.

Does anything delay the start of the limitation period?

There is an exception to the statute of limitations rule that only applies if you did not know that you were harmed, and your lack of knowledge was reasonable. In this case, you may be allowed extra time to file in court.

For example: Assume you underwent a surgery and the surgeon accidentally left a sponge in the incision site. You did not know, and you did not experience any pain or symptoms. The medical error was discovered a year later when you underwent another surgery in the same site. Because it was reasonable for you to be unaware of the error, the statute of limitations may begin on the date you discovered the error and not on the date the first surgeon made the medical error.

If, based on the facts above, you felt like something was wrong after the first surgery and you neglected to seek medical attention, a court may find that a reasonable person would have sought help and discovered the error sooner. In that case, the court may not extend the statute of limitations.

In general, the extra time for a statute of limitations is calculated by deciding on which date the statute of limitations period should start. There are three possibilities, described below. If you think that this might apply to your case, consult with an attorney.  

Statute of Limitations Start Date: Which one applies to my case?
Earliest Possible Date <   > Last Possible Date
The date that you or your property were harmed. The date the judge says that you should have discovered that you had been harmed (even if you did not know about it). The date that you actually discovered that the harm had occurred

General Statutes of Limitations for Some Common Situations:

Please note, the following are only general limitation periods. The specific circumstances of your case may change the time period you are allotted to bring a claim. While we strive to keep all content up to date, rules on the above time limits change from time to time. Make sure to verify the deadline to file your claim with the Maryland statutes.

Type of Claim, and Time Limit

Statutory Code

Civil Claim - 3 years

Courts and Judicial Proceedings, Section 5-101

Assault, libel, slander - 1 year

Courts and Judicial Proceedings, Section 5-105

Fraud - 3 years

Courts and Judicial Proceedings, Section 5-101

Battery - 3 years

Courts and Judicial Proceedings, Section 5-101
Ford v. Douglas, 144 Md. App. 620, 623, 799 A.2d 448, 450 (2002)

Judgments - 12 years

Courts and Judicial Proceedings, Section 5-102

Written Contracts Under Seal - 12 years

Courts and Judicial Proceedings, Section 5-102

Recover Land Trespassed Upon - 20 years

Courts and Judicial Proceedings, Section 5-103

Wrongful Death - 3 years from date of death

Courts and Judicial Proceedings, Section 5-108

Personal Injury - 3 years from date of injury

Courts and Judicial Proceedings. Section 5-108

Written Contract - 3 years

Courts and Judicial Proceedings, Section 5-101

Oral contract - 3 years

Courts and Judicial Proceedings, Section 5-101

Medical Malpractice (age 11+) - lesser of 5 years from date of injury or 3 years from date of discovery

Courts and Judicial Proceedings, Section 5-109

Trespass - 3 years

Courts and Judicial Proceedings, Section 5-101

Collection of Rent - 3 years

Courts and Judicial Proceedings, Section 5-101

Default under a lease contract - 4 years

Commercial Law, Section 2A–506

 

Source: 

Edits by Regina Strait, Esq.

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