In Hawaii, 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.
For those unfamiliar with the term, a "statute of limitations" is a state law that sets a strict time limit on your right to have a civil court consider your lawsuit. Miss the deadline, and you effectively lose the right to bring your case to court. Every state has passed these kinds of laws, with time limits that vary depending on the kind of case being filed.
In this article, we'll explain the statute of limitations that applies to property damage lawsuits in Hawaii, the consequences of missing the deadline, and a few rare situations in which you might be able to extend the time limit.
In Hawaii, 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 two years, according to Hawaii Revised Statutes section 657-7. Specifically, this statute sets a two-year deadline for all "actions for the recovery of compensation for damage or injury to persons or property."
So, a vehicle damage claim after a car accident must be brought within two years in Hawaii. 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 two-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 Hawaii 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 Hawaii 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 most kinds of civil lawsuits in Hawaii, including cases over property damage, a number of situations could serve to extend the two-year lawsuit filing deadline.
For example, special rules usually apply if, at the time the property damage occurs, the property owner:
These are all considered "legal disabilities" by the Hawaii civil courts, so that once the period of legal disability ends -- meaning the property owner turns 18, is declared legally sane, or is released from incarceration -- he or she will have the full two years to get a property damage lawsuit filed. This rule can be found at Hawaii Revised Statutes section 657-13.
And, according to Hawaii Revised Statutes section 657-18, if the defendant (the person who is alleged to have caused the property damage) "departs from and resides out of the State," the period of absence probably won't be counted as part of the two-year time limit for filing suit.
Other circumstances may affect the Hawaii statute of limitations, and how the time window is calculated. If you have questions about the statute of limitations as it applies to your potential property damage lawsuit, an experienced Hawaii attorney will have the answers. Learn more about Finding an Excellent Lawyer.