By: Sydney C. Aase
A statute of limitations bars a claim after a specific time period has passed. A plaintiff must bring a lawsuit before the statute of limitations period ends. If the plaintiff does not bring suit before the period ends, the defendant will be able to assert a defense based on the statute of limitations and the lawsuit will be dismissed. These time periods are set by state and federal statutes and vary depending on the type of claim.
Statutes of limitations serve several purposes. First, it provides a level of fairness to a defendant who does not have to defend a lawsuit decades after the claim arises. This gives reassurance to people that they cannot get sued after an unreasonable amount of time. Second, it encourages plaintiffs to quickly pursue their claims. One reason for this is that a statute of limitation increases the likelihood that evidence is preserved. If a plaintiff waits too long to file, witnesses can die or forget what happened. Physical evidence such as documents and photos may also be lost or destroyed if a claim isn’t pursued quickly. When claims are filed within the statute of limitations period, a judge will have better evidence to work with and can decide a case more accurately and more fairly.
The following is a list of common statutes of limitations in Nebraska:
- Written Contract (non-Uniform Commercial Code) – 5 years
- Written Contract (Uniform Commercial Code) – 4 years
- Oral Contract – 4 years
- Property Damage– 4 years
- Torts/Personal Injury – 4 years
- Fraud – 4 years
- Medical Malpractice – 2 years
While these and other statutes of limitations are fairly easy to find through a simple Internet search, what is difficult to decide is the date when a statute of limitations begins. For example, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims begins two years after the act or omission occurred. However, if the patient did not discover and could not reasonably discover the act or omission occurred within those two years, the patient has one year after discovery of the act or omission to bring a lawsuit.
As in the previous example, each statute of limitations analysis is based on the individual facts and circumstances of each case. To determine whether your claim or a claim against you is barred by a statute of limitations, you should consult with an attorney.