If you've had your property damaged as a result of someone else's careless or intentional action in Iowa, you might be thinking about bringing a civil lawsuit over what happened. If so, it's important to understand the Iowa 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 affects a potential plaintiff's right to file a lawsuit, by putting a strict limit on how much time can pass before they can 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 Iowa, the consequences of missing the deadline, and the (rare) situations in which you might be able to extend the time limit.
In Iowa, whether your potential case involves damage to real property (your house or your land, for example) or personal property (including vehicle damage), it must be filed within five years, according to Iowa Code section 614.1, which sets this time limit for any legal action based on "injuries to property."
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 five years in Iowa. The same goes for a vehicle damage claim 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 you try to file your Iowa property damage lawsuit after the five-year time period has passed? In that situation, it's a safe bet that the defendant (the person you're trying to sue) will file a motion asking the court to dismiss the case, based on the fact that the filing deadline has passed. And the court is certain to grant the dismissal unless rare circumstances make an extension of the deadline appropriate (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 Iowa statute of limitations for property damage claims.
For most kinds of civil lawsuits in Iowa -- including property damage claims -- a number of situations could effectively extend the five-year lawsuit filing deadline as set out in the statute of limitations.
For example, if the person you're suing is a non-resident of the state of Iowa for any amount of time after your right to file the lawsuit arises, that period of non-residence probably won't be counted as part of the five years (according to Iowa Code section 614.6).
And if the property owner is under the age of 18 or is suffering from a mental illness at the time the property damage occurs, he or she will typically have one year to bring the property damage lawsuit once the period of "legal disability" ends (meaning the property owner turns 18 or is declared competent). Iowa Code section 614.8.
Other circumstances may affect the Iowa 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 -- especially if the filing deadline is fast approaching -- an experienced Iowa attorney will have the answers. Learn more about Finding an Excellent Lawyer.