Statutes of Limitations

By: Jonathan Simms

When a person is injured or a contract is broken in Virginia, the person who is injured, the plaintiff, has a certain period of time, known as a limitations period or statute of limitations, in which to file her lawsuit against the defendant.

Even though there are exceptions, the statutes are so stringent that filing even one day late may result in dismissal of the case upon a proper challenge by the defendant in the form of a plea in bar or other dispositive pleading.

The following limitations periods only apply to civil cases, a private plaintiff, and not a criminal action, the Commonwealth prosecuting a crime. Criminal statutes of limitations are distinct from civil statutes. Also, the following is not an exhaustive list of all possible circumstances and this post is only for informational purposes.

Determining the date that a limitations period ends is a complex matter and, depending upon your particular case, may include statutes of repose, exceptions to the statutes, tolling periods, and other complex matters outside of the scope of this post; for the best evaluation of your case, you should send us a message through our contact form and send us details about your particular case.


  • Libel, Slander, Insulting Words: 1 Year (§ 8.01-247.1).


Injuries to the person:

  • Wrongful Death: 2 years (§ 8.01-243 and § 8.01-244).
  • Medical malpractice: 2 years (§ 8.01-243).
  • Car accident: 2 years (§ 8.01-243).
  • Fraud: 2 years (§ 8.01-243).

Or, 1 year after the fraud is or should have been discovered (§ 8.01-243(C)(2)).

  • All other personal actions (Catch All): 2 Years (§ 8.01-243(A)).

Personal injuries that are caused by the sexual abuse of minors are different and in some circumstances can be brought many years after the attack.


Agreements and property:

  • Injury to personal property: 5 Years (§ 8.01-243(B)).
  • Breach of oral contract (express or implied): 3 Years (§ 8.01-246)
  • Breach of Written Contract (Services / Real Property): 5 Years (§ 8.01-246(2))
  • Breach of UCC Contract (sales of goods): 4 Years (§ 8.2-725)

Parties may, in some circumstances, agree to period shorter than 4 Years but not shorter than 1 Year.

  • Legal Malpractice: 3 or 5 years, depending upon the type of agreement (§ 8.01-246)
  • Notes: 6 years after due date (§ 8.3A-118).
  • Demand Note: 6 years from demand (and refusal or failure to pay upon demand) (§ 8.3A-118)

Collecting on a note is barred 10 years from date of formation if there is no demand or 10 continuous years of no payment on principal or interest.


The concept of tolling
Tolling is a legal concept that pauses, suspends, or prevents the running of the statute until some condition is met. This concept often complicates the process of determining the appropriate deadline, significantly. You can read more about tolling at § 8.01-229 (among other statutes).


Suits against the Commonwealth:
Lawsuits against the Commonwealth of Virginia, and other governmental entities, are subject to entirely different rules with very short time limits; such limits are outside the scope of this post.

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