In Arkansas, as in every state, if you've had your property damaged as a result of someone else's careless or intentional action, you might consider filing a lawsuit over what happened. If so, it's critical to understand the statute of limitations and how it applies to your potential 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 bring your case to 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 Arkansas, the consequences of missing the deadline, and a few rare situations in which you might be able to extend the time limit.
In Arkansas, whether your potential case involves damage to real property (your house, some other building, or your land) or personal property (including vehicle damage), it must be brought to the state's civil court system within three years, according to Arkansas Code Annotated section 16-56-105. Specifically, this statute sets a three-year deadline for:
So, a vehicle damage claim after a car accident must be brought within three years in Arkansas. The same goes for a lawsuit by a homeowner who alleges that physical damage to the exterior of his/her house was caused by someone else's negligence. The three-year "clock" typically starts running when the property owner becomes aware (or should reasonably have become aware) of the incident that led to the damage.
If you try to file your Arkansas property damage lawsuit after the time limit has passed, you can count on the defendant (the person you're trying to sue) filing a motion with the court, asking that the case be dismissed. And the court is certain to grant the dismissal unless rare circumstances make an extension of the deadline appropriate (more on these rules later). So it's crucial to pay attention to (and comply with) the Arkansas statute of limitations for property damage cases, even if you're fairly certain you'll be able to resolve the situation without resorting to a lawsuit.
For property damage claims -- and for most other kinds of civil lawsuits in Arkansas -- a number of situations could serve to extend the three-year lawsuit filing deadline.
For example, special rules usually apply if, at the time the property damage occurs, the property owner is under the age of 21 or is "legally insane." These are considered "legal disabilities" by the Arkansas courts, so that once the period of legal disability ends -- meaning the property owner turns 21 or is declared legally sane -- he or she will have three years to get the property damage lawsuit filed. This rule can be found at Arkansas Code Annotated section 16-56-116.
And, under Arkansas Code Annotated section 16-56-120, if the defendant (the person who is alleged to have caused the property damage), "by leaving the county, absconding, or concealing himself, or by any other improper act of his own, prevents the commencement" of the lawsuit, the period of that absence or concealment probably won't be counted as part of the three-year time limit for filing suit.
Other circumstances may affect the Arkansas 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 Arkansas attorney will have the answers. Learn more about Finding an Excellent Lawyer.