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Understanding the Statute of Limitations in Business Disputes

“I’ll see you in court!” “You’ll be hearing from my attorney!” “I’m going to sue the pants off you!”

If you’ve ever been involved in an emotionally charged business dispute, you’ve probably heard those words. Maybe you even uttered them yourself, frustrated over a broken promise, an underhanded business tactic, or a genuine misunderstanding.

While your first instinct may be to “lawyer-up and sue,” there are a few things you should understand about the process of taking someone to court.

Most Lawsuits Don’t Go To Trial

For starters, very few civil lawsuits actually go to trial. In the Sunshine State, statistics compiled by the Florida Office of State Courts Administrator show that less than 10 percent of civil complaints are resolved through a trial by a judge or jury. In the vast majority of cases, the parties settle before reaching that point.

That’s a good thing. Trials can be expensive, emotionally draining, and time-consuming affairs. Reaching an amicable resolution of the dispute out of court is often in the best interest of all of the parties involved.

What is a Statute of Limitations?

Second, in deciding whether or not to take legal action, it is critical that you take note of the statute of limitations for filing a claim. The statute of limitations establishes the deadline for filing a lawsuit against someone. If you wait too long to take legal action, your suit will be dismissed – regardless of the merits of your case.

By the same token, if someone is suing you and the statute of limitations has already expired, you can ask the court to dismiss the case on the same grounds without having to address the facts surrounding the dispute.

Statutes of Limitations Vary

Statutes of limitations vary depending on the type of case and typically range anywhere from one to five years. For example, Florida law dictates that with some types of contract disputes, the lawsuit must be filed within a year from the date the contract was breached. With real estate foreclosures, however, a mortgage holder has five years from the date of default to bring a lawsuit to foreclose on the property.

In some cases, calculating the statute of limitations period can become tricky. There are certain situations in which the law allows for a time out – a temporary suspension of the statute of limitations clock – due to incapacity of the parties or other circumstances.

The time period may also differ from state to state, an important consideration if a Florida business is locked in a dispute with an out-of-state vendor, for example. Often times, the written agreement executed by the parties will specify which state’s laws apply.

Seek Legal Help Early

For all of these reasons, it’s a good idea to seek legal help early if you become embroiled in a business dispute that could lead to a lawsuit. The sooner you consult an attorney, the more time you’ll have to consider all of your legal options without having to worry about the statute of limitations shutting the courthouse door on your attempt to seek compensation.

At the Law Offices of Larry E. Bray, P.A., we handle disputes ranging from a few thousand to several million dollars. We routinely advise businesses about their rights, obligations and the potential liability they face in business litigation.

Contact us at our Boca Raton, Lake Worth, or West Palm Beach office to arrange a consultation. We will evaluate your case thoroughly, and strategize and implement the solution that best resolves your concerns.

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