Statute of Limitations District of Columbia Statute of Limitations, Civil Actions

The District of Columbia Statute of Limitations for civil actions sets a time limit after an injury or civil wrong occurs, during which an injured party can file a lawsuit. After that period of time expires, the injured party is no longer permitted to file a claim in a District of Columbia state court to litigate that matter. The statute ensures that lawsuits that have merit and worthy of being heard are filed within a reasonable time or not at all.

How Does the Statute of Limitations Operate?

The period of time to file a claim will vary depending upon the type of incident that occurred. A claim against a doctor for medical malpractice may be for a different length of time than against an accountant for negligence or fraud. The District of Columbia statute of limitations can generally be found within the District of Columbia Code (D.C. Code) Section 12-301 and covers the following rules and exceptions in greater detail.

When does the District of Columbia Statute of Limitations Begin?

Other than for specific exceptions, the District of Columbia statute of limitations generally begins to run at the time when a "cause of action arises" - in other words, at the time when an injury occurs that would qualify for a lawsuit to be filed in a District of Columbia state court.

What is the Discovery Rule?

There are times when a person is unable to discover that they have been injured. For example, fraud that is concealed by an accountant and is not easily discoverable or a medical condition resulting from a doctor's misdiagnosis that can only be detected after the patient's health deteriorates. It wouldn't be fair or reasonable to require the injured party to file a lawsuit when they could not have detected the injury. As a result, in some instances the District of Columbia statute of limitations begins to run from the time the injured party discovers or should have discovered that they have been injured.

Delaying or Tolling the District of Columbia Statute of Limitations

In certain circumstances, fairness would require that the statute of limitations be delayed for a period of time. A party may not have the ability to bring a case even though they are aware of an injury or damages. Delaying or "tolling" the statute of limitations typically occurs when the plaintiff is "disabled" - such as a minor child or a person who is mentally incompetent or bankrupt. Once the disability ends, the statute of limitations begins to run.

Calculating the length of time that a plaintiff has to file a lawsuit is complicated and involves many factors and exceptions. Parties that have suffered significant injuries or damages may wish to consult with a District of Columbia attorney to ensure that all claims and notices are filed within the time limits set forth by law.

District of Columbia Council: District of Columbia Code

Personal Injury and Negligence

3 years, generally, up to 10 years with application of the Discovery Rule.

Wrongful Death

3 years.

Medical Malpractice

3 years, generally with the Discovery Rule.

Legal and Professional Malpractice

3 years.

Products Liability

3 years.

Assault and Battery

1 year.

False Imprisonment

1 year.


Written contracts 3 years. Oral contracts 3 years.


3 years.

Personal Property Damages

3 years.


3 years.

Libel / Slander / Defamation

1 year from the date of publication (or the date when spoken).

Debt Collection Accounts

3 years.

Collection of Rent

3 years.

Judgment Enforcement

12 years.

Liability of State and Municipalities

A notice of claim within 6 months of the incident causing injury must be sent to the mayor in writing or within a police report.

No-Fault Insurance

Yes - no-fault insurance applies.

Consumer Fraud Complaints

District of Columbia Office of the Attorney General

Telephone: (202) 727-3400

Please Take Note: The statute of limitations laws presented are strictly provided to you "as-is". While we believe that the legal information is accurate as of the date created, we cannot and do not provide any guarantee, analysis or conclusions. The law may have changed since this article was published. The only way to ensure that the statute of limitations law you are reading is up to date and applies to your specific issue, is to have a legal consultation with an attorney licensed to practice law in the state of District of Columbia.
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Lawsuits, Disputes
Statute Of Limitations
About author
Michael Wechsler
Michael M. Wechsler is an experienced attorney, founder of, A. Research Scholar at Columbia Business School and of-counsel to Kaplan, Williams & Graffeo, LLC. He was also an SVP and chief Internet strategist at and legal consultant at Kroll Ontrack, a leading service e-discovery and computer forensics service provider.


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