Statute of Limitations – Definition

Cite this article as:"Statute of Limitations – Definition," in The Business Professor, updated December 9, 2019, last accessed December 4, 2020,

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Statute of Limitations Definition

A statute of limitations refers to a law that outlines the time period within which the parties have to start with court proceedings right from the date a crime, or an offence was made. Different courts set different time periods under statues so as to allow victims to take legal step against the offending party.

A Little More on What is the Statute of Limitations

Usually, the statute of limitations’ time period differs depending on how critical the offence is. Mostly, they are applicable on civil matters. For instance, there are some provinces that have the statute of limitations of 2 years for medical cases. This means if a person has suffered from a medical malpractice, he or she needs to file the case within 2 years. Else, they won’t be able to take legal action against the offending medical provider.

Besides civil cases, statute of limitations can also be applied on criminal offences. However, talking about intense crimes such as murder, there is no specific or limited time period set by a statute of limitations. There are some provinces where sex offenders or kidnappers are not bound by statute of limitations.

Considering global laws, crimes made against human welfare, genocide, etc. don’t have any statute of limitations as per the Article 29 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and Convention on the Non-Applicability of Statutory Limitations to War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity.

Key points to remember

  1. A law that specifies the time limit for parties to start legal process.
  2. The time duration allowed for initiating legal proceedings depends on the intensity of the offence.
  3. There are intense cases like murder that don’t require any maximum time period.

Time-barred debt

Statutes of limitations are also applicable on a consumer loan as money lenders or financial institutions need to have their money back in a specified period of time. However, the statute of limitations, when applied on consumer borrowings, are affected by certain factors like the province’s regulations in question, and the nature of loan. If it is a time-barred debt, creditors don’t have the authority to sue. However, it doesn’t imply that the customer or the debtor is not obligated to repay the money. If you are paying for a time-barred debt obligation, it can start the time again on the statute of limitations.

The statute of Limitations Controversy

Sometimes, there can be controversies associated with the statute of limitations because of the cases when one cannot sue the wrongdoer legally because of the elapse of time. As per the founders of the statute of limitations, it is fair to set the start of lawful court proceedings to a certain event of time post event. With the passage of time, it may be hard for the witness to remember things, and sometimes, even the basic proof could be manipulated or forged. Hence, lawful process followed under such scenarios may not sound just for the parties involved.

Real World example of a statute of limitations

In the year 2019, the New York legislature thought of broadening the statute of limitations on child abuse. The objective of this liberty was to offer more time to casualty to claim criminal charges. Earlier, the Catholic Church stood out as the strongest opponent against the extension of the statute of limitations.

References for “Statute Of Limitations › Investing › Financial Analysis

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