You may have heard of the expression “statute of limitation” but may not know what exactly this term means. Statute of limitation refers to the legislation which contains limitation periods in respect of causes of actions. A limitation period means the time limit which proceedings in respect of a particular cause of action must be brought before a court by. A “cause of action” simply refers to a legal right which a person or entity has to sue another person or entity in court. For example, a cause of action may arise under contract, deed, or some other basis such as tort. Essentially, the statute of limitation provides the time limit which someone witha cause of action needs to begin proceedings by.
Are there different time limitations?
In NSW the general limitation period for causes of actions is 6 years. However, the Limitation Act 1969 provides different limitation periods for different causes of actions. For example, the limitation period for a claim in defamation is 1 year from the date of the defamatory publication whereas a judgment or a deed can be enforced for 12 years.
Because of the various limitation periods which apply to different causes of actions it is important you seek legal advice as soon as you think you may have a legal claim. Generally, a limitation period runs from the date when the cause of action accrues to the plaintiff, and so acting in a timely manner is important.
What happens if you wait too long to sue?
If you bring an action outside a particular limitation period, then you will be “statute barred” from brining the proceedings. This means that whatever right you may have which could be enforced by the courts is lost by reason of you waiting too long to sue. Causes of actions must be brought within the limitation that applies to that action. For example, if there is a breach of a contractual agreement then you will need to start court proceedings within 6 years from the date of the breach (or the date in which you became aware of the breach). If you try to file a statement of claim in court for a contractual breach after 6 years from the breach, then you will be statute barred and your claim will not be able to proceed.
Only in limited circumstances can a limitation period be extended. For example, a limitation period may be extended by leave of the court or because there have been certain acts by the proposed defendant (such as confirmatory acts) which can extend the limitation period.
It is always prudent if you are considering a particular cause of action or dispute to take immediate steps to consider and seek legal advice. If you have a current dispute you would like advice in respect to, please contact us on 42 222 666 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org