From time to time, this blog summarizes the state of the law in Colorado. This is not intended as legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship is created by the dissemination of this information. If you have questions about what I have written, I encourage you to contact me at kdavlin@davlinlawfirm.com. If you have specific legal questions, please contact the Davlin Law Firm, pc, and we can discuss your case.

Statutes of Limitations – Don’t be S.O.L.

One of the easiest ways to lose a lawsuit is to wait too long to bring it. Nobody wants legal obligations to hang over their heads for eternity. Remember that kid down the block who fell off your bicycle twenty or thirty years ago? Would it be fair for him to come file suit decades later claiming that you loaned him a defective bike? Statutes of limitations say no. Essentially, the law says that if you didn’t care enough to bring suit within a specified amount of time, then you will be barred from suing over that mater – the other party shouldn’t have to worry about it forever.

This time limit serves a couple of purposes. First, it lets people move on with their lives without having to worry forever more about an incident in the past. Secondly, it helps ensure that the evidence involved in a suit is not so distant in time as to be lost to memory. Do you even still have that bicycle?

The courts and the lawmakers have carved out different areas in an attempt to make things fairer in different cases. I will attempt to break down the basic time limits set by the statutes of limitation in Colorado. Of course, there are exceptions to these time limits. If you have questions about a specific fact pattern, I highly recommend that you talk to a licensed attorney.

Examples for which Colorado has a general limitation on bringing suits of 3 years include (but are not limited to) most (but, again, not all) contract actions, fraud, misrepresentation, breach of fiduciary duty, and torts for bodily injury or property damage resulting from the use of a motor vehicle.

Examples for which Colorado has a 2 year general limitation include (but, once again, are not limited to) tort actions for negligence, trespass, malicious abuse of process, malicious prosecution, outrageous conduct, interference with relationships, tortious breach of contract, and wrongful death suits.

Examples for which Colorado has a 1 year general limitation include (but still are not limited to) torts for assault, battery, false imprisonment, false arrest, libel, slander, or liability for commission of class A or B traffic infractions.

Are we done yet? Of course not. There is a 6 year limitation on things like recovery of debts or rents in arrears. Suits against veterinarians are limited to two years, while suits against health care professionals are usually 2 years, sometimes 3, but you don’t start counting the time if the person who committed the act was concealing it, until you knew about the injury or cause, or, in the case of foreign objects left in the body, until you knew or reasonably should have known about the object.

Causes of actions brought on behalf of minors or people with certain disabilities have their own variations on these rules, as do suits against manufacturers of products (2 years, unless the person is under 18, mentally incompetent, imprisoned, or absent from the United States). Note that this is different from manufacturers of manufacturing equipment (generally 7 years).

As you can see, this can be a complicated area. But it is absolutely vital that you bring suit before the appropriate Statute of Limitations expires. If you are late, you are almost certainly S.O.L.

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