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Rhode Island Statute of Limitations on Debt

Melissa Lyken | December 27, 2023

Melissa Lyken
Legal Expert, Paralegal
Melissa Lyken, BS

Melissa Lyken is a senior paralegal and legal-finance content writer with over eight years of professional legal and business experience and a bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Community Studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Edited by Hannah Locklear

Hannah Locklear
Editor at SoloSuit
Hannah Locklear, BA

Hannah Locklear is SoloSuit’s Marketing and Impact Manager. With an educational background in Linguistics, Spanish, and International Development from Brigham Young University, Hannah has also worked as a legal support specialist for several years.

Fact-checked by George Simons, JD/MBA

George Simons
Co-Founder of SoloSuit
George Simons, JD/MBA

George Simons is the co-founder and CEO of SoloSuit. He has helped Americans protect over $1 billion from predatory debt lawsuits. George graduated from BYU Law school in 2020 with a JD/MBA. In his spare time, George likes to cook, because he likes to eat.

Summary: The Rhode Island statute of limitations on debt is ten years for debts related to credit cards, medical services, mortgage, and most loans. You can use the statute of limitations as a defense in your debt lawsuit to get the case dismissed. Use SoloSuit to draft and file an Answer to your lawsuit in Rhode Island and make the right defense the right way.

Are you being sued for old debt in Rhode Island? You might have closed that chapter of your life and put it behind you. Unfortunately, the creditor or debt collection company did not forget about it. And they’ve filed a lawsuit against you. There is a high chance that you are wondering what legal process you need to follow to deal with that old creditor. You probably also want to know if they can still sue you for the debt after all these years.

Let’s take a closer look at the statute of limitations on debt in Rhode Island to see if you are still legally responsible for paying on your debt.

What is the statute of limitations?

The statute of limitations for debt is like a countdown timer that starts when you last make a payment or acknowledge a debt. It's a set period of time, varying by state and type of debt, during which a creditor can take legal action to collect the money you owe.

Once the statute of limitations timer runs out, the debt is considered "time-barred," meaning the creditor doesn’t have legal grounds to collect the debt by legal action anymore. That doesn’t mean that they can’t file a lawsuit against you, though. It just means that, if you bring up the statute in court, the case will likely be dismissed.

Even if a debt is time-barred, it doesn’t disappear. You technically still owe it, but the creditor's legal recourse to force you to pay is limited. The statute of limitations on debt is different in every state, and the type of debt also affects the time frame limitation.

It's important to note that, in some states, payment or agreement to pay can reset the clock on the statute of limitations, so be cautious when dealing with old debts.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the statute of limitations on debt in Rhode Island.

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The statute of limitations on debt in Rhode Island can protect you

Each debt has a different time frame in which a creditor has the right to file a lawsuit. The table below outlines the different statutes of limitations on debt in Rhode Island, which you can use as a defense in your debt lawsuit:

Statute of Limitations on Debt in Rhode Island

Debt Type Deadline
Credit Card 10 years
Medical 10 years
Student Loan 10 years
Auto Loan 10 years
Mortgage 10 years
Personal Loan 10 years
Judgment 20 years
Source: R.I. Gen. Laws § 9-1-13 and § 9-1-17

Now, let’s break down these laws a little further.

According to R.I. Gen. Laws § 9-1-13, the Rhode Island statute of limitations on credit card debt, medical debt, mortgage debt, and debts resulting from student, auto, and personal loans is ten years. The law specifically states:

“(a) Except as otherwise specially provided, all civil actions shall be commenced within ten (10) years next after the cause of action shall accrue, and not after.

(b) [Ruled unconstitutional, see case notes] Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (a) of this section, an action for the recovery of damages for personal injury, death, or damage to real or personal property, including any action based upon implied warranties arising out of an alleged design, inspection, listing, or manufacturing defect, or any other alleged defect of whatsoever kind or nature in a product, or arising out of any alleged failure to warn regarding a product, or arising out of any alleged failure to properly instruct in the use of a product, shall be commenced within ten (10) years after the date the product was first purchased for use or consumption.”

On the other hand, the statute of limitations on judgments that have been granted in Rhode Island and any other state in the US is 20 years, as outlined in R.I. Gen. Laws § 9-1-17, which states:

“The following actions shall be commenced and sued within twenty (20) years next after the cause of action shall accrue and not after: actions on contracts or liabilities under seal; and actions on judgments or decrees of any court of record of the United States, or of any state.”

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Some Rhode Island debts have no statute of limitations

There are few types of debts that do not fall under the statute of limitation category; these debts are free of limitations, so they can come back to haunt you anytime. They are as follows:

  • Child support: If you owe back child support, it does not matter what age the child is or if they are now an adult. You can be sued at any time or period for back child support.
  • Federal student loans: There is no statute of limitations for federal student loans. If you owe them, these cannot be cleared even if you file for bankruptcy. For this type of loan, you can be sued at any time.

Prove your debt is a time-barred debt

When a debt surpasses the time frame of the statute of limitation, it is referred to as a time-barred debt. This means the creditor will not be able to get a court-ordered judgment against you if you can prove that the statute of limitations passed on your debt.

The creditor will not be able to legally sue if the time allotted lapsed. Though this is the case, this may not stop your creditor or a debt collector from filing a lawsuit. If you are confident that the statute of limitations passed on your debt, you will want to include this in your Answer. Make sure you file a timely response to the lawsuit to avoid receiving default judgment.

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Tolling sets the clock on the statute of limitations

Tolling stops or pauses the time on the statute of limitations. Tolling generally happens when the debtor requests additional time to pay the debt. If you start making the payment during the prescriptive period, this directly affects the duration of the statute of limitations on your debt by restarting the clock. Simply put, whenever a debtor starts paying the debt, the statute of limitation is tolled during that period. Once the debtor stops paying the debt, the statute of limitation restarts, and the clock starts ticking again.

If you made payments at any time during the prescriptive period, the statute of limitations might differ from the date you had in mind. If debt collectors are harassing you to start repaying on your defaulted debt, carefully consider if you are in a place to successfully make all required payments before doing so.

We understand how annoying and frustrating it is to be sued for an old debt. We hope this insight gives you more understanding of the legal process for debts in Rhode Island and helps you figure out if the statute of limitations passed on your debt.

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Learn more: Debt Collection Laws in Rhode Island

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