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When should I file my claim? Statute of Limitations and Laches


Every jurisdiction in the United States, state and federal, has adopted statutes of limitations for particular crimes or other legal claims. A Statute of Limitations is a prescribed period of time, within which a crime must be prosecuted or a civil lawsuit must be initiated. If the time period has expired, then any lawsuit based on that claim would be barred. For example, Virginia imposes a statute of limitations of 2 years for personal injury claims – if someone were to wait until 5 years after their major auto accident to sue the other driver, it would likely be barred by the statute of limitations.

Virginia law prescribes a statute of limitations for many crimes or civil actions, the most common of which are:

  • Breach of Contract (5 years for a written contract; 4 years for a contract for the sale of goods; 3 years for verbal contract)
  • Personal Injury and Fraud (2 years)
  • Defamation (1 year)
  • Promissory Notes (6 years)

There are some crimes and lawsuits, however, that have no applicable statute of limitations. In this case, the doctrine of laches may apply. Laches is a defense against a lawsuit that does not have a prescribed limitations period, but essentially argues that the plaintiff waited too long to bring this lawsuit and going forward would be unfair and inequitable to the defendant.

Have you been sued, and you suspect it is beyond the time limit for this claim against you? Or might you have a lawsuit against another person/business that you’ve unknowingly delayed? Reach out to our office! Our team is experienced in serving individuals and businesses, and passionate about serving clients with their litigation matters. Give us a call today!