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statute of limitations

A law prescribing the period within which certain types of causes of action must be brought. This period usually begins to run when the injury or damage occurs. Each state has enacted statutes that prescribe the period within which suits must be filed that vary from claim to claim. In most states, the statutory time within which a plaintiff must file suit on a bodily injury (BI) claim based on negligence is 2 years. For malpractice claims, the statute of limitations may be only 1 year. Sometimes, courts may postpone the triggering of a statute of limitation where the plaintiff does not know about the claim. Applying the "discovery rule," some courts hold that statutes of limitations begin running when the plaintiff discovers that he or she has a claim. Actions for declaratory judgment in an insurance coverage matter are generally held to be governed by the statute of limitations for suits on written contracts, which vary in length from state to state. In Texas, for example, suit on a written contract (including an insurance policy) must be filed within 4 years of the date on which one party breaches the agreement, whereas in Ohio, such a suit may be filed at any time up to 15 years after the breach. See also Tolling a statute of limitations; Statute of repose.


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