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No one-size-fits-all answer exists. Every state has its own time limits, called statutes of limitations, and even within a state the period of time within which you must file a lawsuit varies according to the type of claim. For example, rules in one state may allow a plaintiff with a personal injury claim (such as a broken leg) one year from the date of injury to file suit and a plaintiff with a breach of contract claim (such as failure to make good on a promissory note) four years from the date of breach to sue. In another state, personal injury plaintiffs may have two years to sue, and plaintiffs with breach of contract claims may have five years. For various statutes of limitations in your state, see Chart: Statutes of Limitations in All 50 States.