Statutes of Limitations: How long do you have to file your lawsuit?

A "statute of limitations" is the time period in which you must file a lawsuit. Failure to file your lawsuit in the allotted time frame forever bars you from filing it. The main reasons for statutes of limitations are to protect defendants from having to defend old claims and to prevent evidence from becoming stale. For example, witnesses may become unavailable through death or relocation, or documents may be routinely and legitimately destroyed by a company after several years have passed.

The length of statutes of limitations vary. Some statutes of limitations are very short. For instance, if you were fired for reporting a violation of the law to a public body, such as a county health department, you have only ninety days from the date of your termination to file a lawsuit under the Michigan Whistleblowers' Protection Act.

Lawsuits for employment discrimination (based on race or gender, for example) or retaliation under Michigan's Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act must be filed within three years. However, if you have a potential case involving race or gender discrimination or retaliation under Title VII, a federal law, the statute of limitations is different. In that case, you must first file a charge of discrimination or retaliation with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 300 days of the discriminatory or retaliatory treatment.

It is also possible that you have agreed to a shorter statute of limitations by signing a statement to that effect. Employers are increasingly including such statements in employment applications and you may not be aware that you have signed one. You should carefully review your personnel file for any agreements limiting your ability to file a lawsuit in court. You can request your personnel file from the company by making a written request pursuant to Michigan's Bullard-Plawecki Employee Right-to-Know Act.

Promptly contacting an attorney is critical if you believe you have a potential lawsuit. If you are concerned about the statutes of limitations that may apply in your case, contact us at: Please note that Fett & Fields, P.C. is not responsible for meeting any statutes of limitations in your case until we agree to represent you and you have signed a representation/fee agreement.

Note: This blog entry is for general informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. You should always consult with an attorney before taking or refraining from taking any action in your individual situation, or if you need to calculate any statutes of limitations.

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