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The statute of limitations is a deadline that lets you know by when you need to file a lawsuit. If you don’t file your lawsuit within this deadline, you may be unable to continue pursuing your case in court. In the article below, we discuss some of the common statutes of limitations in Texas, where to find the statute of limitations for your type of claim, and more.
Summary: Don’t wait to file a lawsuit. If you wait, you may not be able to win if it’s past the deadline for when you can sue called the Statute of Limitations.
What is the Statute of Limitations?
The Texas legislature sets the statute of limitations for civil claims that are filed in the state of Texas. Each type of case will have a different statute of limitations. For example, property damage claims have a different statute of limitations than breach of contract claims. Remember, if you don’t file your lawsuit within this deadline, the judge will likely dismiss your case because the statute of limitations has passed.
Further, there is no difference in the statute of limitations for a regular Texas lawsuit and a Texas small claims lawsuit. As stated above, the statute of limitations changes between types of claims, not based on whether the lawsuit is a small claims lawsuit or a regular civil lawsuit.
Things to keep in mind when calculating the statute of limitations:
Keep in mind that calculating the statute of limitations can be nuanced. There are other laws that affect the statute of limitations that may give you additional time to sue (for example, tolling statutes).
Generally, you will apply the Texas statute of limitations to a case you are filing in Texas court. However, there are laws that allow you to “borrow” or apply the statute of limitations from the state where the accident occurred, even though you are filing your claim in Texas.
Where Can You Look Up the Statue of Limitations in Texas?
In Texas, you can find most statute of limitations by looking up the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code Chapter 16 Subchapter A. There you can look up the different sections that list all the statutes of limitations (which can range anywhere from 1 to 5 years).
Common Texas Statutes of Limitations
Below we have included a list of some of the common statute of limitations periods affecting Texas small claims court lawsuits. This is not a complete list, and if you have any doubts about a specific statute of limitations period, consider discussing it with an attorney, as some lawsuits can be nuanced.
Breach of Contract
In Texas, there is no difference in the statute of limitations for oral and written contracts. The Texas statute of limitations for breach of contract for both oral and written contracts is → 4 years. (Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code 16.004; Texas Business and Commerce Code 2.725).
Note, you enter into contracts all the time. Just because you don’t sign a paper contract, doesn’t mean you haven’t entered into a contract.
Here are some examples of small claims lawsuits involving contracts:
You buy a lamp from an online seller, and the seller never ships the lamp. Your receipt is written proof that you entered into a contract with the online seller.
You lend your roommate money, and you both agree that you will be paid back in a month, but your roommate never pays you back.
Your landlord refuses to return your security deposit as per your written lease agreement.
Property Damage or Property Theft
The Texas statute of limitation for lawsuits involving property damage or theft (also referred to as “conversion”) is → 2 years after the date the damage occurred or from when the property was taken or detained. (Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code 16.003(a)).
Here are some examples of small claims lawsuits involving property damage or theft:
Your roommate moves out of your apartment and takes items from your room (books, electronics, etc.) with them.
A tow truck company negligently towed your legally parked car.
You hired movers that negligently handled your belongings, and as a consequence, your belongings were damaged in the move.
You were driving in Dallas and got into a car accident with another motorist who was driving negligently. Your car is damaged, and the other driver doesn’t want to pay for the costs to repair your car.
The Texas statute of limitation for lawsuits involving personal injury is → 2 years. (Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code sec. 16.003(a)).
Here are some examples of small claims lawsuits involving personal injury:
You were walking in a park, and someone’s dog bites your leg.
You were biking on the biking lane, and a car hits you, causing you to break your foot.
You were stopped at a stop sign, and a car hits the back of your car, causing you to injure your back.
Note, if you have a claim for personal injury, medical malpractice, or negligence by a medical provider, there are many nuances to the laws surrounding these claims. Most personal injury and medical malpractice attorneys provide free consultations and only get paid if you win. You may want to reach out to a medical malpractice or personal injury attorney before filing a small claims lawsuit for these types of cases.
The Texas statute of limitation for lawsuits involving fraud is → 4 years after the date the act occurred. (Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code sec. 16.004(a)(4)).
Here are some examples of small claims lawsuits involving fraud:
You buy a car from a dealership that states the car was never in an accident, but the dealer knew it had been when they sold you the car.
You receive a scam call telling you to renew your Apple subscription by providing your bank account information over the phone. Note, it is extremely difficult to find telephone or online scammers and bring them to court.
The Texas statute of limitation for lawsuits involving defective products (i.e., a defective toaster or other household appliance) is → 2 or 15 years. (Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code sec. 16.003(a); Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code sec. 16.012(b)).
You may need to look at the statute of limitations for personal injury (2 years) if you were personally harmed by the defective product. For example, you bought a toaster that was defective, and you harmed your hand while using the toaster. As mentioned under the personal injury section, this type of law can be nuanced and hard to prove in some circumstances. If you have any doubts about a personal injury claim, consider consulting with a personal injury attorney.
Here are some examples of small claims lawsuits involving products liability:
You purchased a refrigerator from a store. Turns out the refrigerator was defective when you purchased it, so when you attempt to use it, all your groceries go bad.
You purchase an A/C unit from an online store, and it turns out the A/C unit was defective and doesn’t cool down your home.
Claims With No Other Express Statute of Limitations
Be aware that if you look up your specific claim and you can’t find a statute of limitations expressly applicable (except for actions to recover land), the statute of limitations is → 4 years after the date the act occurred. (Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code sec. 16.051).
Texas’ Statute of Repose for Construction or Repairs
In addition to the statute of limitations, the Texas legislature has also included what is known as a “statute of repose” applicable to individuals who perform “construction or repair of improvements” to homes. If you want to bring a claim against a contractor for defective repairs or construction to your home, you have to bring this claim → no later than 10 years after the completion of the work. (Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code sec. 16.009(b)).
What is a statute of repose?
A statute of repose is different from a statute of limitations. Even though both provide a deadline by when you should file a claim, a statute of repose stops people from bringing claims within a stated time, regardless of when the breach or injury occurs (statute of limitations tend to focus on when the breach or injury occurred).
For example, if you hired a contractor to repair your kitchen and the work is completed in 2003, but you don’t find out that the contractor incorrectly installed the pipes to your kitchen until the pipes burst in 2024, you may not be able to bring a claim because the work was completed 10 years ago. This can be very nuanced; see below.
Note, there may be other statutes of repose. We only discuss the Texas statute of repose for construction and repairs, as lawsuits against contractors for home improvement projects are common in small claims court. You can look up more statutes of repose under Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code Chapter 16 Subchapter A or consider consulting with an attorney if you have further questions.
Suing a Government Entity
To first sue a Texas government entity such as an agency, city, or town, they must be notified. This means you need to file a notice of claim, generally, within 6 months from the date of the injury. (Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code sec. 101.101).
Your time to notify a government entity may vary as some municipalities might have their own deadlines. For example, the City of Houston requires you to file a notice of claim within 90 days of your injury. See the City of Houston Legal Department website.
Generally, once the government entity received your notice, they will review and investigate the claim (they may decide to settle the claim at this point too).
After notice and investigation, you can file a small claims lawsuit in the county where the accident (or parts of the accident) occurred. (Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code sec. 101.102).
Please keep in mind that the statute of limitations listed above may be different when you are suing the government. For example, if you hurt yourself due to government negligence, the deadline to sue the government may be different than if you were suing your neighbor for causing an injury. Make sure to consult an attorney if you have any issues determining the statute of limitations.
Learn more about the Texas Tort Claim Act and suing a government entity in Texas here.
Legal Educator @ People Clerk. Claudia holds a J.D. degree and is a certified mediator in New York and Florida. She has participated in dozens of small claims mediations in New York City courts.