Statute of Limitations Massachusetts Statute of Limitations, Civil Actions

The Massachusetts 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 Massachusetts 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 Massachusetts statute of limitations can generally be found within the Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 260 and covers the following rules and exceptions in greater detail.

When does the Massachusetts Statute of Limitations Begin?

Other than for specific exceptions, the Massachusetts 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 Massachusetts 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 and not easily discoverable until after circumstances change and could be detected by the reasonable person. 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 Massachusetts 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 Massachusetts 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. 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 Massachusetts attorney to ensure that all claims and notices are filed within the time limits set forth by law.

Massachusetts Civil Statutes: General Laws of Massachusetts

Personal Injury and Negligence

3 years, use the Discovery Rule for issues that concern later discovery of the injury. For hit-and-run auto accidents, the plaintiff can file suit within 6 months after learning of the identity of the defendant - provided that written notice is given to the police and department of motor vehicles within 30 days of the auto accident. See M.G.L. Ch. 260 §4

Wrongful Death

3 years with the Discovery Rule.

Medical Malpractice

3 years, use the Discovery Rule up to a maximum of 7 years from the date of the injury from the malpractice, unless a foreign object is discovered within the body - and the statute of limitations runs from the date the object is discovered or should have been discovered. See M.G.L. Ch. 260 §4

Legal and Professional Malpractice

3 years. See M.G.L. Ch. 260 §4

Products Liability

3 years with the Discovery Rule.

Assault and Battery

3 years.

False Imprisonment

3 years.


Written contracts 6 years, 20 years if under seal. Oral contracts 6 years. See M.G.L. Ch. 260 §1 and M.G.L. Ch. 260 §2


3 years.

Personal Property Damages

3 years.


3 years.

Libel / Slander / Defamation

3 years from the date of publication (or the date when spoken). See M.G.L. Ch. 260 §4

Debt Collection Accounts

6 years. See M.G.L. Ch. 260 §2

Collection of Rent

3 years. See M.G.L. Ch. 260 §4

Judgment Enforcement

20 years. See M.G.L. Ch. 260 §20


Statute of limitations runs from date of removal of disability for minors (under age 18) and those with mental illness. Infants must file a claim on the later of their ninth birthday and 3 years from the date of the medical malpractice. Other than foreign object claims, maximum time limit to file after an injury is 7 years.

No-Fault Insurance

Yes - no-fault insurance applies.

Consumer Fraud Complaints

Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General, Consumer Protection

Telephone: (617) 727-2200 (Boston)
(413) 784-1240 (Springfield)
(508) 990-9700 (New Bedford)
(508) 792-7600 (Worcester)

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 Massachusetts.
  1. Massachusetts
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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