Statute of Limitations

The time within which a lawsuit must be filed or a criminal prosecution begun. The deadline can vary, depending on the type of civil case or the crime charged.

Source: U.S. Courts

A law limiting the time in which claims or suits may be instituted.

Source: U.S. Maritime Administration.

The period during which someone can be held liable for an action or a debt; statutes of limitations for collecting child support vary from state to state.

Source: Office of Child Support Enforcement

A law that sets the deadline for parties to file suit to enforce their rights. For example, if a state has a 4-year statute of limitations for breach of a written contract, and "John" breached a contract with "Susan" on January 1, 1996, Susan must file her lawsuit by January 1, 2000. If the deadline passes, the "statute of limitations has run" (or the claim is "time-barred") and "Susan" may not be allowed to sue. There are very few conditions that allow a statute to be extended or "tolled" (kept from running).

Source: California Courts.