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District of Columbia Civil Statute of Limitations Laws

A civil statute of limitations sets a time limit on filing a lawsuit. Statutes of limitations exist to provide courts and parties with some sense of when a case can no longer be heard. Defendants can rest easy, plaintiffs can move on, and courts appreciate the reduction in their workload. It’s a practical answer to the question “how long is too long?” when it comes to litigation.

Most statutes of limitations provide different time limits for different causes of action. Generally, cases or claims that are difficult to detect (like fraud) have a longer time period while cases that are more obvious (such as libel) have shorter periods. Jurisdictions differ too – some states have short periods to reduce lawsuits while other states have longer periods to encourage plaintiffs. Then there are the jurisdictions that aren’t states at all. Here’s a quick summary of civil statute of limitations laws in the District of Columbia.

D.C. Statutes of Limitations

Washington D.C.’s standard statute of limitations period is three years. There are different exceptions for certain causes of action and where otherwise established by law, however. Cases to recover lands, tenements, or hereditaments can be filed up to fifteen years after the underlying action occurs. Libel, slander, assault, battery, false arrest, and false imprisonment carry a one-year statute of limitations period – these are causes of action that plaintiffs discover pretty quickly.

The following chart provides an overview of D.C.’s statutes of limitations.

Injury to Person 3 yrs. (§12-301(8)).
Libel/Slander 1 yr. (§12-301(4)).
Fraud 3 yrs. (§12-301(8)).
Injury to Personal Property 3 yrs. (§12-301(2,3)).
Professional Malpractice 3 yrs. (§12-301(8)).
Trespass 3 yrs. (§12-301(3)).
Collection of Rents 3 yrs. (§12-301(8)).
Contracts Written: 4 yrs. (sales contract) (§28:2-725); 3 yrs. (simple contract) (§12-301(7)).
Collection of Debt on Account 3 yrs. (§12-301(8)).
Judgments 12 yrs. (§15-101); Foreign judgments according to law of foreign jurisdiction (§12-307)).

Note: State laws are constantly changing -- contact a D.C. attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Related Resources for Civil Statutes of Limitations

Civil statutes of limitation can make or break a case. They can also be difficult to calculate – figuring out when the clock started, when it’s held, and when it’s up isn’t always straightforward. You can find more information about statutes of limitations and lawsuits here on these pages.

Learn More About D.C. Civil Statute of Limitations Laws from a Lawyer

The District of Columbia's civil statute of limitations varies depending on the circumstances of the case and the type of claim involved. For this reason, it's a good idea to talk about your case with a skilled litigation attorney in D.C. who can find the appropriate cause of action and ensure that it's filed with the statute of limitations.

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