“A person who sits on his legal rights may lose them.”
—Legal maxim

The law imposes time limits for the filing of lawsuits. These time limits are known as statutes of limitations. If a lawsuit is not filed before the expiration of the statute of limitations, it will be barred. This means that it may never be filed. The Ari­zona statutes of limitations for various actions are set forth below.

One Year – Malicious prosecution, false imprisonment, libel or slander, seduction or breach of promise to marry, breach of employment contract, wrongful termination, and lia­bility created by statute (e.g., consumer fraud, recording false documents, and bad checks).

Two Years – Personal injury, injury when death ensues (wrongful death), damage to property, conversion of property, product liability, medical malpractice, and forcible entry and detainer.

Three YearsOral debt, stated or open accounts, and relief on grounds of fraud or mistake.

Four Years – Bond to convey realty, partnership account, account between merchants, judgment or instrument rendered or executed outside Arizona, breach of sale contract, bond of personal representative or guardian, specific performance of contract to convey realty, and any action (other than for recovery of real property) for which no limitation is otherwise prescribed.

Five Years – Renewal of judgment; failure to make return on execution.

Six YearsWritten contract for debt.

A statute of limitations begins to run when the related cause of action accrues. A cause of action generally accrues when the event occurs. In some cases, the statute of limitations may be stopped (tolled) or extended.

A statute of limitations does not begin to run until a person reaches the age of 18 years. It may be extended in cases where the person being sued was absent from the state to avoid legal process, or filed bankruptcy. There are other situations in which a statute of limitations may be tolled or extended, and an attorney should always be consulted to make that determi­nation.

Note: In cases involving the federal government, the state, a county, or any government entity or agency (whether state or federal), written notice of the claim must generally be given to the governmental party within a specified time after the claim accrues, regardless of the length of the statute of limita­tions. The claim periods are usually much shorter than the cor­responding statutes of limitations. Failure to give written notice of a claim within the time required by law (not covered here) will prevent a lawsuit based on that claim.

The statutes of limitations set forth above do not apply to claims arising under federal law, for which separate time limits apply.

The above article is an excerpt from Arizona Laws 101: A Handbook for Non-Lawyers, 2nd Edition (Fenestra Books, 2012), by Donald A. Loose, republished with the author’s permission. 

Disclaimer: Laws change constantly. Specific legal advice should be obtained regarding any legal matter. The information contained on this website does not constitute legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is created. 

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Donald A. Loose is an Arizona attorney, and the author of Arizona Laws 101: A Handbook for Non-Lawyers, and Estate Planning in Arizona: What You Need to Know.  Mr. Loose is a regular guest on radio shows featuring local newsmaker interviews. He may be contacted at don@looselawgroup.com.