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Statute of Limitations - How Long Do I Have to Sue?

Posted by Caleb A. Miller | May 11, 2022 | 0 Comments

Statute of Limitations

The Statute of Limitations are the laws that set the maximum amount of time that parties involved in a dispute have to initiate legal proceedings from the date of the alleged offense. In simpler terms, if someone performs an action for which you are looking to sue them (i.e. discrimination, wrongful termination, personal injury), the statute of limitations sets the deadline for how long you have to sue them or you give up that right. The length of time the statute allows for someone to initiate legal proceedings varies depending on the type of offense that occurred and the jurisdiction that the offense occurred in. 

Some criminal matters, like murder, typically have no maximum period and international crimes do not have a statute of limitations. 

California Statutes of Limitations

Injury to Person

Personal injury: 2 years. Civ. Proc. §335.1;

False imprisonment: 1 year. Civ. Proc. §340(c)


1 year. Civ. Proc. §340(c)


3 years. Civ. Proc. §338(d)

Injury to Personal Property

3 years. Civ. Proc. §338(b), (c)

Professional Malpractice

Legal: 1 year. from discovery, max. of 4 yrs. from the wrong Civ. Proc. §340.6;

Medical: 1 year. from discovery, 3 yrs. if injury known Civ. Proc. §340.5;

Vet.: 1 year. for injury or death of animal Civ. Prop. §340(c)


3 years. Civ. Proc. §338(b)

Collection of Rents

4 years. Civ. Proc. §337.2


Written: 4 years. §337;

Oral: 2 years. Civ. Proc. §339

Collection of Debt on Account

4 years. (book and stated accounts) Civ. Proc. §337


10 years. Civ. Proc. §337.5

Wrongful Termination

2 years. Civ. Proc. §335.1


3 years. Share Act

Filings for Discrimination 

In California, filings for discrimination require you first file with California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) and obtain a "right to sue" letter. This process is called "administrative exhaustion" and can bar your rights to bring a claim if you don't first exhaust your administrative rights.  This system can be entirely done online on the DFEH website or you can choose to mail your charge in using the DFEH's form. The DFEH will typically return the right to sue letter right away, allowing your attorney to then file a civil claim with the court.  

Public Policy on Statutes of Limitations

The Statute of Limitations controversial due to cases where legal actions can no longer be brough against an offender because the maximum length of time that has elapsed. Proponents of the statute of limitations argue that people should not live on the hook for a legal action for the rest of their lives and there must be an end to a claim. For practical reasons, it is argued that it is most equitable to limit the initiation of legal proceedings to a reasonable period after the event. Of course, as time goes on, important evidence may be lost, witnesses may move or forget their memories of the events and under these circumstances this may not be fair to all parties. 

Statutes of limitations ensure an offending party in any legal dispute is aware that he or she committed or may be accused of committing some wrong against another party. At the same time, the wronged party must decide whether to initiate a lawsuit in order to recover for his or her wrong. After enough time has passed, the chance to sue disappears. Knowing when you have to file a lawsuit is just as important as knowing whether you have a case or not.

Speak with the attorneys at Miller Wilmers APC to learn whether your case is still within the statute of limitations in California. 

About the Author

Caleb A. Miller

Caleb A. Miller is a Marine Corps Veteran and founder of Miller Wilmers, APC.


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