If you've had your property damaged through someone else's careless or intentional action in Alaska, and you're considering filing a lawsuit over what happened, it's critical to understand the statute of limitations and how it applies to your potential civil case.
A "statute of limitations", for those not familiar with the term, is a state law that puts a strictly-enforced limit on how much time can pass before you must file your case. Miss the deadline and you effectively lose the right to file your lawsuit in court. Every state has these laws on the books, with different time limits depending on the kind of case being filed.
In this article, we'll explain the property damage lawsuit filing deadline in Alaska, the consequences of missing the deadline, and a few rare situations in which you might be able to extend the time limit.
In Alaska, the filing deadline that applies to a property damage lawsuit depends on whether the plaintiff (the person filing the lawsuit) is seeking the repair or replacement of damaged or destroyed real property or personal property.
The Alaska lawsuit filing deadline is six years from the date of any tort (wrongful action) that results in "waste or trespass upon" real property (which includes damage to a house or other structure, or to land itself). This rule can be found at Alaska Statutes section 09.10.050.
For lawsuits over damage to personal property (including vehicle damage), Alaska Statutes section 09.10.070 says this kind of civil case must be filed within two years.
It's important to note that these filing deadlines apply any time you're asking a court to award you monetary compensation for damaged or destroyed property in Alaska, whether that claim is part of a larger legal action or a standalone lawsuit.
What happens if you try to file your Alaska property damage lawsuit after the relevant time limit has passed? In that situation, it's a safe bet that the defendant (the person you're trying to sue) will file a motion asking the court to dismiss the case. And the court is certain to grant the dismissal unless rare circumstances make an extension of the deadline appropriate (more on this later).
If that happens, you've essentially lost your right to any legal remedy for your damaged property. That's why it's crucial to pay attention to (and comply with) the Alaska statute of limitations for property damage claims.
For most kinds of civil lawsuits in Alaska -- including property damage claims -- a number of (relatively rare) situations could effectively extend the statutory filing deadline.
For example, special rules apply if, at the time the property damage occurs, the property owner is under the age of 18 or "incompetent by reason of mental illness or mental disability." In those situations, since the property owner is considered under a "legal disability", once the period of disability ends (meaning the property owner turns 18 or is declared sane or competent), the property owner will have two years to get the lawsuit filed. This rule can be found at Alaska Statutes section 09.10.140.
And if the person who is alleged to have caused the property damage leaves the state of Alaska before the lawsuit can be filed, or takes steps to conceal him/herself in the state, the period of absence or concealment probably won't be counted as part of the time limit for filing suit, according to Alaska Statutes section 09.10.130.
Other circumstances may affect the Alaska statute of limitations, and how it's calculated. If you've got questions about the statute of limitations as it applies to your potential property damage lawsuit, an experienced Alaska attorney will have the answers. Learn more about Finding an Excellent Lawyer.