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Can the Statute of Limitations be Extended?

Patrick Austin, J.D. | April 12, 2023

Check the expiration on your debt's statute of limitations before paying it off.

Summary: Debts have an applicable statute of limitations which are typically governed by the law of the state in which you reside. After the statute of limitations expires on a debt, a creditor is generally prohibited from filing a legal action to try and collect on that debt…unless you inadvertently restart and extend the statute of limitations.

There are certain actions that can extend the statute of limitations on debt. Even if one of these actions is done inadvertently or by accident, the statute of limitations can still be prolonged, giving creditors and debt collectors more time to either pursue debt collection or file a lawsuit to try and recover the debt.

If your debt is approaching, or near, its statute of limitations, you should understand what types of actions can provide a “new life” to debt that is old and about to enter retirement. But before taking a deep dive into the action that can extend the statute of limitations on a debt, let’s cover some basics.

Use the expired statute of limitations to win your debt lawsuit.

Statute of limitations on debt explained

First, the statute of limitations on debt is generally considered to be the amount of time afforded to debt collectors to file a legal action in an effort to recover on an outstanding debt. Second, once the statute of limitations expires, a debt collector is barred from filing a lawsuit and will likely be prohibited from garnishing your wages or placing a lien against your home. Third, each state has its own law setting forth the applicable statute of limitations for various types of debt.

For example, if you reside in California, the statute of limitations is two years for debts with oral contracts and four years for written contracts. In the majority of states, the statute of limitations lasts between three to six years. Note that some states are much more friendly and accommodating to debt collectors and provide up to 10 years for a debt collector to file a lawsuit in order to recover a debt.

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s discuss the ways in which the statute of limitations can be extended on a debt.

Debt collectors can extend the statute of limitations on debt—here’s how

The statute of limitations on debt may be extended if you, at anytime:

  • Make a payment toward the debt (either full or partial)
  • Formally agree to pay the debt
  • Even acknowledge the outstanding debt account

Use the Statute of Limitations Calculator below to determine your state’s statute of limitations on different types of debt:

Statute of Limitations Calculator

Select your state.

Choose the debt type.

Select the last day you made a payment.

The Satute of Limitations

This calculator is for educational purposes only.

Examples of actions that can extend the statute of limitations on a debt

Below are some examples of actions that could trigger an extension on your debt’s statute of limitations:

  • Making a payment toward the debt (for any amount, not just the full amount)
  • Agreeing to enter into a repayment plan
  • Accepting a settlement offer from the creditor or debt collector
  • Agreeing to pay a portion of the debt
  • Acknowledging you owe the debt or even acknowledging the existence of the delinquent account
  • Making a new charge on the same account

It is important to understand that once the clock on the statute of limitations is extended, it starts back at zero. In addition, the fresh and new extended statute of limitations will apply to the entire debt balance. When the statute of limitations is extended, it provides the creditor or debt collector with additional time to hound you via multiple phone calls, letters, and affords more time to utilize the court system to file a debt collection lawsuit.

Use the expired statute of limitations as a defense in your case

As mentioned, when the statute of limitations on a debt expires, it means a debt collector loses the legal right to file a legal claim to seek recovery on an outstanding debt. Nevertheless, that doesn’t necessarily mean a debt collector won’t file a debt collection lawsuit against you.

In fact, some creditors and debt collectors may attempt to sue you based on the assumption that you won’t know about the statute of limitations, that you won’t be able to prove it has expired, or that you will not attend the necessary court proceedings to protect yourself and your legal rights.

If a debt collector sues you after the statute of limitations expires, SoloSuit can help you respond with the proper defense to get the case thrown out. Check out this video to learn more about how to answer a debt lawsuit and win:

Key Takeaways

  • When you owe a creditor or debt collector for an unpaid debt, you can unknowingly restart and extend the statute of limitations on that debt.
  • Making a payment automatically will, in most states, restart the proverbial clock on the statute of limitations.
  • Agreeing to make a payment toward a debt, even an old debt nearing the statute of limitations period, means you own the debt. Simply acknowledging a debt can be enough to restart the clock on the statute of limitations.
  • SoloSuit can help you respond to a debt lawsuit, using the expired statute of limitations as your defense.

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