Washington Statute of Limitations

Statute of Limitations WA- Summary Statute of Limitations as they apply to the state of Washington

Washington’s statute of limitations establishes a deadline before which civil cases – such as lawsuits – must be filed in the state. In relation to criminal charges, it also prevents prosecutors from charging an individual with a crime after a specified period of time has passed. The statutes of limitations for different civil actions and crimes can vary from state to state, so read on for more information about how they apply in Washington. 

Washington Civil Statute of Limitations

Washington’s civil statute of limitations can range from 1 year to 10 years, depending on the nature of the case. The statute of limitation for injury to person, injury to personal property, trespass and fraud is 3 years, while debt collection has a 6 year limit. The date of discovery of an incident or date an offense is committed is usually when time starts counting down. However, for medical malpractice claims, the statute of limitations sometimes depends on the court. Some courts may decide that the statute of limitation begins after the occurrence of the malpractice, after the malpractice results in injury, when the plaintiff discovered or should have discovered he or she was injured as a result of a malpractice or after the treatment concludes. In the case of malpractices that lead to death, the courts have to decide whether the malpractice statute of limitation applies or whether the wrongful death statute applies. After that process is complete, the court has to decide if the time limit begins after death or immediately after the occurrence of the malpractice.

Be aware that if you fail to file your civil claim before the established deadline, the opposing party can use the statute of limitations in their defense and file a motion to dismiss the case on the basis that the time allotted to file it has already passed. Any legal claim will be lost forever once your case is dismissed. 

A summary of civil statutes of limitations in Washington:

Injury to Person3 yrs. §4.16.100(1)
Libel/Slander2 yrs. §4.16.100(1)
Fraud3 yrs. §4.16.080(4)
Injury to Personal Property3 yrs. §4.16.080(2)
Professional MalpracticeMedical: 3 yrs. of injury or 1 yr. upon discovery (max. 8 yrs.) §4.16.350(3)
Trespass3 yrs. §4.16.080(1)
Collection of Rents6 yrs. §4.16.040(2)
ContractsWritten: 6 yrs. §4.16.040(1); Oral: 3 yrs. §4.16.080(3)
Collection of Debt on Account6 yrs. §4.16.040(3)
Judgments10 yrs. §4.16.020(2)

State laws related to filing lawsuits can change often. While our goal is to provide the most current information available, please consider contacting a Washington attorney or doing legal research of your own to verify the state law(s) you’re researching. 

Washington Criminal Statute of Limitations

Washington’s criminal statute of limitations sets time limits on the filing of criminal charges in the state, but there is no deadline for crimes considered especially heinous, including murder, arson causing death, homicide by abuse, rape of children under 16 years and child molestation. Other felonies carry statutes that can range from 3 to 20 years, depending on the nature of the offense. Gross misdemeanors committed in this state carry a 2-year limit whereas other misdemeanors carry a 1-year limit. Also, sexual violence against children such as third degree rape, commercial sex abuse and incest has a 10 year limit or if the child is under 18 years, a time limit that runs until the child’s 30th birthday, whichever is later. These limitations are established to ensure criminal charges are handled efficiently and in a timely manner. The limits also help preserve the integrity of evidence such as testimonies from witnesses that may become unreliable with time.

A summary of criminal statutes of limitation in Washington:

Code SectionsWashington Sec. 9A.04.080
FeloniesMurder: None.; Arson causing death: None.; Homicide by abuse: None.; Vehicular homicide: None.; Vehicular assault causing death: None.; Hit-and-run injury/accident causing death: None.; Rape if the victim is under the age of 16: None.; Child molestation: None.
Rape in the first degree: 20 years.
Rape in the second degree: 20 years.
Indecent liberties: 20 years.
Public official misconduct in connection with his/her duties: 10 years.
Arson: 10 years.
Attempted murder: 10 years.
Human trafficking: 10 years.
Rape in the third degree: 10 years or if the victim is under the age of 18, up to the victim’s 30th birthday, whichever is later.
Commercial sexual abuse of a minor: 10 years or if the victim is under the age of 18, up to the victim’s 30th birthday, whichever is later.
Incest: 10 years or if the victim is under the age of 18, up to the victim’s 30th birthday, whichever is later.
Leading organized crime or criminal profiteering: 6 years.
Identity Crimes: 6 years.
Money Laundering: 6 years.
Theft in the first or second degree: 6 years.
Class C felony: 5 years.
Bigamy : 3 years.
All other felonies: 3 years.
MisdemeanorsGross misdemeanors: 2 years.
Misdemeanors: 1 year.
Acts During Which Statute Does Not RunWhen the offender is not residing in the state.

State laws are always subject to change. While our goal is to provide the most current information available, please consider contacting a Washington attorney or doing legal research of your own to verify the state law(s) you’re researching. 

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