If you've had your property damaged in Connecticut, you might be considering bringing a civil lawsuit against the person you think is to blame for what happened. In that situation, it's critical to understand Connecticut's statute of limitations for property damage lawsuits, whether your potential case involves real property (damage to your house or your land) or personal property (including vehicle damage).
In case you’re not familiar with the term, a "statute of limitations" is a state law that affects your right to file a lawsuit over any kind of legal dispute or harm suffered, by putting a limit on how much time can pass before you file the case in court. Every state has passed these laws, and the time limits vary depending on the subject matter of the lawsuit.
In the sections that follow, we'll explain the filing deadline in Connecticut, the consequences of missing the deadline, and rare circumstances that might serve to extend the deadline.
Connecticut lawmakers have set a two-year deadline for any lawsuit seeking compensation for the repair or replacement of damaged or destroyed property in the state, whether the case is over real property or personal property. Specifically, General Statutes of Connecticut section 52-584 states: "No action to recover damages...to real or personal property, caused by negligence, or by reckless or wanton misconduct…shall be brought but within two years from the date when the injury is first sustained."
To translate, that means any time a property owner's real or personal property is damaged by someone else, whether accidentally (through negligence) or through recklessness, the property owner has two years to get his or her lawsuit filed in Connecticut's civil court system.
For example, a lawsuit for vandalism damage to a house and a vehicle damage lawsuit after a car accident both need to be brought to court within two years in Connecticut, and the statute of limitations clock usually starts ticking as soon as the property owner becomes aware that someone else caused damage to his or her property.
If you try to file your Connecticut property damage lawsuit after the relevant deadline has passed, the defendant (the person you're trying to sue) will almost certainly make a motion asking the court to dismiss the case. And, except in rare cases where an exemption from the deadline applies (more on these exceptions in the next section), the court will grant the dismissal. If that happens, you've essentially lost your right to any legal remedy for your damaged property. So, even if you’re pretty sure your property damage case will settle, you still want to leave yourself plenty of time to file a lawsuit if you need to.
In a Connecticut property damage lawsuit -- and most other kinds of civil lawsuits, for that matter -- a number of situations could pause ("toll" in legalese) or extend the lawsuit filing deadline set by the statute of limitations.
For example, when the defendant is out of state at the time the property damage lawsuit "accrues," or if the defendant leaves the state for any period of time after that, the time of absence won't be counted as part of the statute of limitations period, except that no more than seven years can be excluded from the statutory period. (General Statutes of Connecticut section 52-590.)
And if the person who caused the property damage takes steps to fraudulently conceal his or her actions, the statute of limitations "clock" likely won't start to run until the property owner discovers what happened. (General Statutes of Connecticut section 52-595.)
Other circumstances may also act to effectively extend the Connecticut statute of limitations time limit, but they're too convoluted to cover in this article. If you've got questions about the statute of limitations as it applies to your potential property damage lawsuit -- especially if the filing deadline is fast approaching -- an experienced Connecticut attorney will have the answers.