Limitation period

The period of time after which a certain legal action cannot be brought. The limitation periods for different civil causes of action are legislated by the Limitation Act 1969 (NSW).

For tortious claims and breaches of contract, claims must be brought within 6 years of the tort/breach. Applications to extend the limitation period may be made in all states and territories.

There is no statute limiting actions for criminal offences, although there are some rules governing when actions can be brought for summary offences (low-level, less serious crimes). Indictable (serious) crimes such as murder and sexual assault are not subject to limitation periods in Australia as they sometimes are in other jurisdictions.

The purpose of limitation periods is to facilitate resolution within a ‘reasonable’ amount of time, and prevent the Court from having to preside over cases that are unlikely to succeed (due to loss of evidence). In this way, limitation periods also protect the rights of defendants.