Statutes of Limitations in Massachusetts

You Have a Limited Time to Recover. Act Now.

What is the Statute of Limitations on my Case?

It is crucial to keep in mind that there is only a limited amount of time to file a civil lawsuit for a certain claims, following which the claim will be barred.   The time frame within which a civil action may be filed can be controlled by a statute of limitations or a statute of repose

Statutes of limitations govern the time within which legal proceedings must be commenced after a cause of action accruesAccrual is generally when the claim arises or when a party knew or should have known about the claimed injury or wrong.  When a statute of limitation has run, or expired, the party is no longer able to file a lawsuit based on the claim. 

A statute of repose limits the time within which an action may be brought, regardless of when it accrued (i.e., even if the injury or wrong was not known). 

Below, you will find several of the most common statutes of limitations for Massachusetts civil claims.  Please note that there are many exceptions that may apply to these statutes, including exceptions that may shorten or extend the period within which the claim must be brought.

If you have a business or private cause of action, contact the experienced attorneys at Equitas Law LLP for guidance on how to initiate a claim in Massachusetts or Federal Court.

Massachusetts Statutes of Limitation

Tort Actions:  For most civil actions sounding in tort, the cause of action accrues when the injury or damage is sustained. The action must be commenced within three (3) years of such accrual.  G.L. c. 260, § 2A.

Improvements to Real Property:  For claims involving improvements to real property arising out of any deficiency or neglect in the design, planning, construction or general administration of an improvement to real property, an action may be commenced only within three (3) years after the cause of action accrues.  G.L. c. 260, § 2B.

However, in no event shall actions be commenced more than six (6) years after the earlier of the dates of the opening of the improvement to use or substantial completion of the improvement and the taking of possession for occupancy by the owner.  The six-year time limit constitutes an absolute limit within which such an action may be brought and accordingly, is a statute of repose.

Wrongful Death: A wrongful death action must be commenced within three (3) years from the date of death or within three years from the date the decedent’s executor or administrator knew, or in the exercise of reasonable diligence, should have known, the factual basis for a cause of action. G.L. c. 229, § 2.

Decedent’s Estate: Generally, suits against an estate must be commenced and served within one (1) year after the date of death.  MUPC Section 3-803(a).  Service must be made in hand upon the administrator or executor of the state, or a notice of the suit, including the name of the estate, the name and address of the creditor, the amount of the claim and the court in which the action has been brought, must be filed in the proper registry of probate.

Contract Actions:  In general, the statute of limitations for most contract actions is six (6) years from the time of the breach of contract. G.L. c. 260, § 2

Legal Malpractice:  Actions of contract or tort for malpractice, error or mistake against attorneys shall be commenced only within three (3) years after the cause of action accrues. G.L. c. 260, § 4.

Consumer Protection Actions: Actions arising out of violations of any law intended for the protection of consumers (including G.L. c. 93A) shall be commenced only within four (4) years after the cause of action accrues.  G.L. c. 260, § 5A.

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If you would like to speak about your case and get an expert opinion, please call or text us at any time at 617-723-4163, email at or use our contact form, above.  We will listen to the facts of your case, address your concerns and let you know what your options are.

The initial consultation is free and there is no pressure to hire.  If you choose to hire us, we will give you a reasonable fee agreement, including possible contingency fee options.

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Civil Litigation FAQ

We Hope This Helps!

The Statute of Limitations sets the time period – from a particular act – within which a legal action must be initiated. If you are a criminal or civil defendant, the SOL can serve to end the case (and eliminate your problem) at its infancy.

If you are looking to bring criminal charges against someone or to sue for civil damages, the SOL may prevent you from doing so if you wait too long.

Generally speaking, most state criminal charges have a SOL of 6 years (murder and certain types of sexual assault have no SOL, while some violent crimes have a SOL of 10 years).

Civil SOL vary too widely to set forth here, but the most commonly utilized are 3 years for personal injury actions, 4 years for consumer protection actions and 6 years for breach of contract.

To complicate matters further, the SOL can be “tolled”, or put on pause, for certain periods of time, such as when a criminal defendant flees the jurisdiction or a civil plaintiff has not yet discovered the harmful event.

As with most areas of the law, the Statute of Limitations is not as simple as it seems and it is important to consult with an attorney to determine how this issue may affect your case.

A tort is simply a term that describes an act or omission that causes injury or harm to another and may allow the court to impose civil liability.

Generally, torts fall into three categories: intentional torts (e.g., assault and battery); negligence (e.g., causing an accident by failing to obey traffic rules); and strict liability torts (e.g., making and selling defective products or dog bites).

Generally, the defendant must serve an answer to a Complaint within twenty (20) days after service of the summons and Complaint. Mass. R. Civ. P. 12(a)(1).

An answer to a Crossclaim, Counterclaim or Third-Party Complaint must be served within twenty days as well.

How you answer a complaint will have an effect on the entire case, so we strongly recommend consulting an attorney!

In responding to any pleading (most often an Answer to a Complaint), the answer must raise the following affirmative defenses or they will be waived:

  • accord and satisfaction;
  • arbitration and award;
  • assumption of risk;
  • contributory negligence;
  • discharge in bankruptcy;
  • duress;
  • estoppel;
  • failure of consideration;
  • fraud;
  • illegality;
  • injury by fellow servant;
  • laches;
  • license;
  • payment;
  • release;
  • res judicata;
  • statute of frauds;
  • statute of limitations;
  • waiver; and
  • any other matter constituting an avoidance or affirmative defense.

Mass. R. Civ. P. 8(c).  It may not seem like it, but this is a crucial stage of the case and mistakes here will cost you.  Call an attorney.

Don't ignore it!

If no responsive pleading is timely filed to a Complaint, Crossclaim, Counterclaim or Third-Party Complaint, a default may be requested pursuant to Mass. R. Civ. P. 55(a). Default Judgment may be obtained by filing appropriate Affidavits with the Clerk of Court if the amount sought is for a sum certain. Otherwise, judgment may be obtained following a hearing to determine damages.  Mass. R. Civ. P. 55(b).

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