In Kentucky, 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 Kentucky, the consequences of missing the deadline, and a few rare situations in which you might be able to extend the time limit.
In Kentucky, the applicable statute of limitations depends on whether your potential lawsuit involves damage to real property (your house, some other building, or your land) or personal property (including vehicle damage).
For lawsuits over damage to real property, a five-year filing deadline applies, set by Kentucky Revised Statutes section 413.120. So, a lawsuit by a homeowner who alleges that physical damage to the exterior of his/her house was caused by someone else's negligence would be subject to this deadline.
If your lawsuit is over damage to personal property (including damage to or destruction of your car, jewelry, electronics, and equipment of any kind), Kentucky Revised Statutes section 413.125 says that it must be filed within two years.
Whichever deadline applies, the "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 Kentucky property damage lawsuit after the applicable 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 Kentucky 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 Kentucky, including cases over property damage, a number of situations could serve to extend the lawsuit filing deadline set by the statute of limitations.
For example, special rules usually apply if, at the time the property damage occurs, the property owner is:
These are considered "legal disabilities" by the Kentucky civil courts, so that once the period of legal disability ends -- meaning the property owner turns 18, or is declared legally competent -- he or she will have the full time period (two years or five years, depending on the kind of property that was damaged) to get their lawsuit filed. This rule can be found at Kentucky Revised Statutes section 413.170.
And, according to Kentucky Revised Statutes section 413.190, if the defendant (the person who is alleged to have caused the property damage) is a resident of Kentucky and "by absconding or concealing himself or by any other indirect means obstructs the prosecution of the action" (including by fleeing the state) the period of absence or concealment probably won't be counted as part of the time limit for filing suit.
Other circumstances may affect the Kentucky 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 Kentucky attorney will have the answers. Learn more about Finding an Excellent Lawyer.