In Idaho (or any state, for that matter), if you've had your property damaged or destroyed as a result of someone else's careless or intentional action, you could be considering bringing a civil lawsuit over what happened. If so, it's important to understand the statute of limitations as it applies to property damage lawsuits in your state.
For readers who are unfamiliar with the term, a "statute of limitations" is a state law that affects a potential plaintiff's right to file a lawsuit, by putting a strict limit on how much time can pass before they must get the case started 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 Idaho, the consequences of missing the deadline, and a few rare situations where the time limit might be extended.
In Idaho, whether your potential case involves damage to real property (your house or your land, for example) or personal property (including damage to vehicles), it must be filed within three years, according to Idaho Code section 5-218.
So, if a homeowner wants to bring a lawsuit for physical damage to the exterior of his/her house after a car crashes into it, that case must be brought within three years in Idaho. The same goes for a vehicle damage lawsuit after a car accident. In both situations, the statute of limitations "clock" usually starts ticking as soon as the property owner becomes aware (or should have become aware) that someone else caused damage to his or her property.
What happens if the three-year time window has closed, but you try to file your Idaho property damage lawsuit anyway? In that case, it's a safe bet that the defendant (the person you're trying to sue) will file a legal motion asking the court to dismiss your lawsuit, based on the missed deadline. And the court is certain to grant the dismissal unless rare circumstances make an extension of the deadline appropriate (more on this in the next section). 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 Idaho statute of limitations as it applies to property damage claims.
For most kinds of civil lawsuits in Idaho -- including property damage claims -- a number of situations could effectively extend the three-year lawsuit filing deadline as laid out in the statute of limitations.
If the property owner is under the age of 18 or has been declared insane at the time the property damage occurs, the three-year clock doesn't start running until this "legal disability" ends (meaning the property owner turns 18 or is declared sane). Note that the filing deadline won't be extended for more than six years for reasons related to a legal disability in Idaho. This rule is codified at Idaho Code section 5-230.
Also, if the defendant is absent from the state of Idaho when the plaintiff's right to file the property damage lawsuit arises (or for any amount of time after that), the period of the defendant's absence probably won't be counted as part of the three-year period. But again, a property owner can't rely on this extension for more than six years. (Idaho Code section 5-229.)
Other circumstances may affect the computation of the Idaho statute of limitations. 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 Idaho attorney will have the answers. Learn more about Finding an Excellent Lawyer.