Following legal standards, there are limitations for civil actions in collections. These limitations are called the Statutes of Limitations and are concerned with the period of time within which an action may be brought to enforce a legal right. Their purpose is to compel the commencement of litigation within a prescribed time, not only because the law looks with suspicion upon stale claims but also because of the difficulty of proof after the passage of time with loss of documents and other evidence, failure of memory, and death or removal of witnesses from the jurisdiction. The time limitations prescribed by status vary not only from state to state but also with the type of action.
The period of limitations begins to run from the date that a cause of action first accrues, which is a matter also determined by each state’s laws. In general, some examples are:
- Contracts – When either party first breaches a term of the contract. Where time of performance under the contract is fixed, the cause will accrue upon the termination of such period. Where no time is specified, an action for failure to perform may be brought after a reasonable time has elapsed during which the performance might have been made. Where either party announces his intention not to comply with his contractual obligation, a cause of action arises for anticipatory breach at that time.
- Open Accounts – from the entry of the last item in the account.
- Contracts of Sale – An action for the purchase price accrues at the time of delivery unless the parties have agreed upon a different date for payment.
- Broker’s Contract – Usually compensation is due upon completion of services and the statute runs from that date.
Under statutes of limitation, if you are sued about a debt and the debt is too old, you may have a defense to the lawsuit. Even if the statute of limitations has expired, a court may still award a judgment against you if you don’t show up and raise the statute of limitations as a defense. Ordinarily, it is the responsibility of the person being sued to point out that the statute of limitations has expired. For example, you may need to show that there has been no activity on the account for a certain number of years. In most states, debt collectors can still attempt to collect debts after the statute of limitations expires. They can try to get you to pay the debt by sending you letters or calling you as long as they do not violate the law while doing so.
The place where the action is brought will determine whether the claim is timely asserted according to the laws of that jurisdiction. In most jurisdictions part payment, acknowledgment of the debt, or new promise will toll the running of the statute of limitations or revive a barred debt and the statue will commence to run again from the date of the last payment, the date of the acknowledgment of the obligation, or promise to pay. For a summary of the latest above time limitation by state please see the table below:
Debt Statute of Limitations in Years
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