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Tennessee Civil Statute of Limitations Laws

For civil cases and procedures, such as lawsuits and judgments, states impose time limits called a "statute of limitations." For instance, an injured person must file a lawsuit within a certain period of time after the time of the incident that caused the injury. If you fail to do so, you automatically forfeit your right to file suit; but states also accommodate for the fact that injuries may not be discovered until much later. Criminal law has a similar set of time limits, also referred to as the statute of limitations.

In Tennessee, as in other states, these time limits vary for different kinds of civil actions. For example, plaintiffs have one year in which to file a lawsuit for personal injury, three years for lawsuits involving personal property, and six years for the collection of rent and debts.

The following is a summary of Tennessee's civil statutes of limitations, with additional links to related resources.

Injury to Person 1 yr. §28-3-104(a)(1)
Libel/Slander Libel: 1 yr.; Slander: 6 mos. §§28-3-103, 104
Fraud Not specified
Injury to Personal Property 3 yrs. §28-3-105(1)
Professional Malpractice Legal: 1 yr. CPA: 1 yr. §28-3-104(2)
Trespass 3 yrs. §28-3-105(1)
Collection of Rents 6 yrs. §28-3-109(1)
Contracts Written and oral: 6 yrs. §28-3-109
Collection of Debt on Account 6 yrs. unless expressly provided
Judgments 10 yrs. §28-3-110(2)

Note: State laws are constantly changing. While we make every effort to make sure our State Laws section is up to date, you may also want to contact a Tennessee personal injury attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

What Is the Purpose of Statutes of Limitations?

There are a couple of key reasons why civil courts in Tennessee and elsewhere impose statutes of limitations. For one, they help ensure that claims are filed soon enough after the incident that evidence remains clear and useful (including witness testimony). Additionally, these time limits prevent potential plaintiffs from "threatening" lawsuits indefinitely. It's important to keep in mind that the statute of limitations may be paused (or "tolled") if the plaintiff was a minor at the time of the incident or mentally incompetent.

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