Brian White | January 4, 2018 | Texas Laws
All legal proceedings face restrictions – a statute of limitations – on how long after the incident a claim or prosecution may occur. In Texas, the law divides these limitations into two categories, civil and criminal. Here is what you need to know about a statute of limitations and what kinds of limitations the state of Texas enforces.
What Is a Statute of Limitations?
A statute of limitations sets the maximum time parties to have to take legal action following an offense. A statute of limitations goes into effect when a lawsuit eligible injury happens or a criminal commits a crime. The limitations vary depending on the type of case filed. Medical malpractice claims face different restrictions than credit fraud, for example. Some exceptions do exist, but generally, the statute holds most proceedings to a hard deadline.
These laws exist out of interest for the public’s well-being. They prompt people to pursue their cases in a timely manner, particularly in cases where evidence may be perishable. The U.S. Supreme Court stated these laws promote justice by stopping surprise revelations in proceedings years after evidence vanishes, memories wane, and witnesses move on or pass away.
Sometimes, a person may not discover an injury for a lengthy period after the event. Credit fraud could take several months to surface. A medical problem stemming from misdiagnosis may only appear when the patient’s health begins to deteriorate.
In these cases, holding the patient or victim to the same statute of limitations does not constitute fair treatment under the law. One cannot file a lawsuit if one did not realize what happened. In these cases, the limitation begins upon discovery or when a victim should have discovered it, not when the crime or misdiagnosis happened.
Delays in Texas
Some cases require the statute of limitations not to start until after an event passes. This is called “tolling,” when the statute has been stopped for a period of time. The involved party might have a legitimate reason for not pursuing a claim attending until a certain date, even when they know of the injury. This happens most often in cases involving individuals who are disabled, who are minors, who are declared mentally incompetent or bankrupt, or who are obligated to be away through legal obligations for an extended period of time. A deployed soldier might fall into this category, particularly if the soldier sustains injuries that delay his or her return.
Texas Civil Statute of Limitations
Here are some civil statutes of limitations of note:
- Personal injury and negligence – 2 years, discovery usually applicable
- Wrongful death – 2 years, discovery applicable
- Medical malpractice – 2 years, discovery usually applicable
- Legal and professional malpractice – 2 years
- Product liability – 2 to 15 years, discovery/exceptions applicable
- Fraud – 4 years
- Personal property damages – 2 years
- Libel/slander/defamation – 1 year from publication/incident date
- Contracts – 4 years written/oral
- Assault and battery – 2 years
Texas Criminal Statute of Limitations
Here are some notable criminal statutes of limitations:
- Murder/manslaughter/hit-and-run resulting in death – None
- Specific sexual assaults (including of a child) – None
- Human trafficking – None
- Injury to elderly or disabled – 10 years
- Forced prostitution – 10 years
- Forgery/arson/theft involving fiduciaries/officials – 10 years
- theft/burglary/robbery – 5 years
- Insurance fraud – 5 years
- Abandoning/endangering a child – 5 years
- All remaining felonies – 3 years