If you've had your real or personal property damaged in Indiana, you might be considering bringing a civil lawsuit against the person you think is responsible for what happened. If so, it's important to understand the Indiana statute of limitations for property damage lawsuits.
For those unfamiliar 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 strict limit on how much time can pass before you bring the 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 Indiana, the consequences of missing the deadline, and the (rare) circumstances that might serve to extend the deadline.
In Indiana, the applicable filing deadline varies depending on whether your potential case involves real property (damage to your house or your land) or personal property (including vehicle damage):
For example, a lawsuit for vandalism damage to a house must be brought within six years in Indiana, while a vehicle damage lawsuit after a car accident must be brought within two years. 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.
Whether it's the two-year or six-year deadline, if you try to file your Indiana property damage lawsuit after the filing window has closed, the defendant (the person you're trying to sue) will almost certainly make a motion asking the court to dismiss the case. And the court will grant the dismissal (except in rare instances where an extension is proper; 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 Indiana statute of limitations for property damage claims.
For most kinds of civil lawsuits in Indiana -- including property damage claims -- a number of situations could effectively extend the lawsuit filing deadline as laid out in the statute of limitations.
If the property owner is under a legal disability at the time the damage occurs (under the age of 18 or declared legally incompetent, for example), he or she will have two years from the time the disability ends (the property owner turns 18 or is declared competent, following those examples) to bring the lawsuit. (Indiana Code section 34-11-6-1.)
And if the defendant conceals the property damage from the property owner, the statute of limitations clock doesn't begin to run until the owner discovers what happened. (Indiana Code section 34-11-5-1.)
Another opportunity to extend the deadline exists if the defendant is a non-resident of the state of Indiana, and maintains no agent for service of process (and hasn't designated anyone else to accept service on his or her behalf). In that situation, the statute of limitations clock does not start ticking until the defendant returns to the state. (Indiana Code section 34-11-4-1.)
Other circumstances may affect the Indiana statute of limitations, but they're too complicated 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 Indiana attorney will have the answers. Learn more about Finding an Excellent Lawyer.