Sunday, August 1, 2010

Debt Collection Lawsuit Statute of Limitations By State

Debt Lawsuit Statute of Limitations – Protect Yourself!

What you may not realize when you get that court summons in the mail from a collection agency is that there is a lawsuit statute of limitations for debt in every U.S. state. Granted, these time frames differ, but once your debt passes the statute of limitations, you have a rock-solid defense should a debt collector try to sue you and force you to pay the debt involuntary through a wage garnishment, bank levy or property lien.

The following list details the statute of limitations for each type of debt in all 50 states. Keep in mind that while most states consider collection accounts "open" debt rather than "written" debt, not all do. You can check with your attorney general's office to find out how collection accounts are categorized in your state.

Debt Statute of Limitations By State 

Alabama:  Open – 3 years   Written – 6 years
Alaska:  Open – 3 years  Written – 6 years
Arizona:  Open – 3 years  Written – 6 years
Arkansas:  Open – 3 years  Written – 5 years (2 year open exception for medical debt)
California:  Open – 4 years  Written – 4 years
Colorado:  Open – 6 years  Written – 6 years
Connecticut:  Open – 6 years  Written – 6 years
Delaware:  Open – 3 years  Written – 3 years
Florida:  Open – 5 years  Written – 5 years
Georgia:  Open – 4 years  Written – 6 years
Hawaii:  Open – 6 years  Written – 6 years
Idaho:  Open – 5 years  Written – 5 years
Illinois:  Open – 5 years  Written – 10 years
Indiana:  Open – 6 years  Written – 10 years
Iowa:  Open – 5 years  Written – 10 years
Kansas:  Open – 5 years  Written – 6 years
Kentucky:  Open – 5 years  Written – 15 years
Louisiana:  Open – 3 years  Written – 10 years
Maine:  Open – 6 years  Written – 6 years
Maryland:  Open – 3 years  Written – 3 years
Massachusetts:  Open – 6 years  Written – 6 years
Michigan:  Open – 6 years  Written – 6 years
Minnesota:  Open – 6 years  Written – 6 years
Mississippi:  Open – 3 years  Written – 3 years
Missouri:  Open – 5 years  Written – 10 years
Montana:  Open – 5 years  Written – 8 years
Nebraska:  Open – 4 years  Written – 5 years
Nevada:  Open – 4 years  Written – 6 years
New Hampshire:  Open – 3 years  Written – 3 years
New Jersey:  Open – 6 years  Written – 6 years
New Mexico:  Open – 4 years  Written – 6 years
New York:  Open – 6 years  Written – 6 years
North Carolina:  Open – 3 years  Written – 3 years
North Dakota:  Open – 6 years  Written – 6 years
Ohio:  Open – 6 years  Written – 15 years
Oklahoma:  Open – 3 years  Written – 5 years
Oregon:  Open – 6 years  Written – 6 years
Pennsylvania:  Open – 4 years  Written – 4 years
Rhode Isand:  Open – 6 years  Written – 15 years
South Carolina:  Open – 3 years  Written – 10 years
South Dakota:  Open – 6 years  Written – 6 years
Tennessee:  Open – 6 years  Written – 6 years
Texas:  Open – 4 years  Written – 4 years
Utah:  Open – 4 years  Written – 6 years
Vermont:  Open – 3 years  Written – 6 years
Virginia:  Open – 3 years  Written – 5 years
West Virginia:  Open – 5 years  Written – 10 years
Wisconsin:  Open – 6 years  Written – 6 years
Wyoming:  Open – 8 years  Written –10 years

Related Posts:

Can You Reset the Statute of Limitations on a Debt?

Debt Collection Lawsuits: The Statute of Limitations Defense


  1. So...I found on my credit report the power companies data with a note under Activity/Description as Transfer/Sold. That was in March 2005. Under the Negative Accounts, I found the same account listed as a "Factoring Company Account (debt buyer)" and under comments "collection account". It's showing I "opened" the account on a more recent year than the power companies account but with no detail. Now under the potentially negative section, it says I have no collections. So my question on this scenario is aren't the collection accounts being fudged to appear as if they are accounts I actually opened with a recent date to circumvent the statute of limitations? And if they are collection accounts, shouldn't they show as that rather than an account that I personally established? Is this not false reporting to the credit bureau?

  2. Collection agencies sometimes report the date they received the account as the trade line's initial date. Unless the item says "date of last activity" or something similar, reporting the date the company received the account is permissible as long as that date is not reported as the original default date.

    If the collection agency is reporting the debt as more recent than it really is, they're doing that so that the collection account will remain on your credit report for a longer period of time, not so they'll have longer to sue you. The statute of limitations for lawsuits and the reporting period for collection accounts are two entirely different things.

    Collection agencies that are unethical enough to falsify dates on your credit report are unethical enough to sue you beyond the statute of limitations. Thus, they'd have no real incentive to fudge the collection account's dates since they'd file an out of statute lawsuit anyway. My guess is they are reporting the date they opened the collection account, not the date you originally defaulted.

  3. Lee,

    I follow your blog often and enjoy reading your columns. I have a question about a medical bill. In this case it is for about 500.00 and did not qualify for our insurance so it will be all out of pocket for us. We do not have that kind of money right now and I just got the bill and attempted to settle for what they would normally get from an insurance company. Of course they rejected the settlement offer of 200.00 and state that they already offered us the "uninsured discount."

    Is the best option to allow it to go to collections and then make the offer to settle again somewhere around 50%? We are located in Texas.

    Thank you in advance for your advice.

  4. If you can help it, keep the debt out of collections. Ask for an itemized list of the items you were billed for. Medical bills are notorious for billing insurance companies for services the patient never received. Unfortunately, the patient gets stuck with these bogus charges in the event his/her insurance won't cover the cost of care.

    If you aren't already doing so, call and speak to the doctor or hospital directly. Don't go through their billing company. Billing companies don't like to work with consumers. They just demand money. Your doctor's office will be more willing to discount the debt or offer you a payment arrangement you can afford.

    I don't know the reason your insurance wouldn't cover care, but you can always appeal coverage when it gets denied. An old friend of mine used to work for one of those billing companies and they're actually required to turn down a certain number of claims – regardless of whether those claims are legitimate or not. So few people bother to appeal that the insurance company makes a hefty profit. Try appealing, you might be pleasantly surprised.

    Don't let this account go to collections. Yes, collection agencies are easier to negotiate with but it might just decimate your credit in the process. Best of luck.

  5. Let me correct that. I meant to say that my friend worked for the insurance company, not the billing company.

  6. Great advice. Taking the first scenario what is the permisbl date that would begin the time clock for the statue of limitations? Is it the date the last payment was made to the initial lender or the date the debt was sold?

  7. It begins 180 days from the date the most recent payment was made on the debt, regardless of whether that payment was to the original creditor or to a collection agency.

  8. How do I determine which state law to look to if a credit card was opened in Kansas in 1999 but the person has lived in New York since 2006? Do I use the Kansas or New York statute of limitation?

  9. Virginia, If you had defaulted on the debt in Kansas in 2001 or prior, then the five year SOL for Kansas would have expired before you moved, making the New York SOL a moot point.

    In most cases, when you move the new state's SOL takes over if the old state's SOL has yet to expire. New York has a special borrowing statute, however, that states a creditor can only sue for an action that occurred outside the state if both New York's SOL and the old state's SOL are BOTH still in effect. Thus, you're still looking at a five year SOL after moving to New York from Kansas. Hope that helps.

  10. Hi Lee,
    I'm in Los Angeles county, CA.
    I just had my bank account levyed by a collection agency. I have until 12/21/2011 to respond.
    On the "writ of execution" it says "Judgement entered on 1/27/2005" and Judgement Renewed is blank.
    I have never paid anything on this debt.

    With the Statute of Limitations being 4 years in California, isn't this debt expired given that its almost 7 years old?


  11. You are confusing the SOL for the amount of time a creditor has to sue you with the SOL for judgment enforcement. The SOL for lawsuits is irrelevant since the creditor already sued you and won a judgment against you. California judgments are valid for ten years so no, the debt is not expired.

  12. Hi Lee

    I have an old (20yrs) student loan debt. The initial amount was $1800 and I have paid back almost $4000 in IRS levies. The collection companies say I owe $5000 and it has been bought and sold many times with each collection company adding fees and interest.

    Any suggestions

  13. If anyone here ever gets sued for their debt check out Jurisdictionary® here: It's a self help course and was a huge help for me in defending myself Pro Se when I could not afford an attorney. If anything I would use this just to make sure I was aware of everything going on in court so I knew if my lawyer was no cheating me. There are a lot of crooked lawyers out there that know when you're going to lose the case but won't tell you until you do. Check it out they have lots of free resources on their website and a legal dictionary that you can use fro free! Jurisdictionary® here:

  14. Can collection companies charge me a finance fee??

  15. can a collection co. threaten to take me to court if my son lives in my household.

  16. Is there a reason Washington state was left off the list?