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Statute of Limitations (SOL)

Statute of limitations symbolized by a hourglass.

What is a statute of limitations?

“Statute” is just another word for a law. A statute of limitations is a law (or a section of a law) setting a maximum time limit on how long an injured party can delay before suing the person or company who harmed them. In criminal cases, the statute of limitations sets the time limit within which a prosecutor can bring charges. Each state and the federal government set their own statutes of limitations for every civil claim and criminal offense. Some serious offenses (such as murder) have no statute of limitations.

What does it mean to say the statute of limitations has been tolled?

The word “toll” used in connection with statutes of limitations has nothing to do with paying to drive on a highway or to cross a troll’s bridge. This use of toll comes from the verb meaning to ring a bell. When the statute of limitations has been tolled, the calculation of time remaining in the limitations period immediately stops as if frozen in place when a bell rang. Once tolled, the limitations period will not start running again until some other specified event occurs.

For example, statutes of limitation in civil law generally begin to run when a person learns of the harm they suffered. But if the injured person is a child, the statute of limitations is tolled until they become a legal adult. In certain circumstances, a person or company actively seeking to conceal the harm they have done can also toll the statute of limitations.

 

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