If you've had your property damaged by someone else's carelessness or other type of wrongdoing in Louisiana, you might be thinking about filing a property damage claim in order to get compensation for your losses. If so, it's important to understand the Louisiana statute of limitations and how it applies to your situation.
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 the plaintiff 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 Louisiana, and everywhere else, the statute of limitations only applies to lawsuits filed in court, not to insurance claims involving property damage. But if insurance coverage does apply to your property damage situation, you'll want to get the claim process started as soon as possible. You'll also want to leave yourself plenty of time to take the matter to court if you need to (or at least preserve the court option as leverage during settlement negotiations). So, let's look at the details of the lawsuit-filing deadline in Louisiana.
In Louisiana, 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 brought to the state's civil court system within one year.
This rule can be found at Louisiana Civil Code Article 3492, which sets something of a "catch-all" statute of limitations that applies to most tort or injury cases filed in Louisiana's courts. Specifically, this law says: "Delictual actions are subject to a liberative prescription of one year. This prescription commences to run from the day injury or damage is sustained."
That's a lot of legalese to cut through. But a "delictual" action is simply a lawsuit over some kind of harm. So, under Article 3492, any lawsuit for damage to or destruction of property must be filed within one year. The "prescription commences" language is just a confusing way of saying that the one-year "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.
So, if a homeowner wants to bring a lawsuit for physical damage to the exterior of his/her house caused by someone else's negligence, that case must be brought within one year in Louisiana. The same goes for a vehicle damage claim after a car accident. In case you're wondering, this one-year lawsuit filing deadline is one of the most plaintiff-unfriendly statutes of limitations in the nation.
Get more details on how property damage claims work.
If you try to file your Louisiana property damage lawsuit after the one-year time limit has expired, it's a near certainty that:
This is why it's crucial to understand and comply with the statute of limitations deadline as it applies to your situation.
For most kinds of civil lawsuits in Louisiana—including property damage claims—a number of (relatively rare) situations could effectively extend the one-year lawsuit filing deadline laid out in the statute of limitations, or at least have an impact on how the time period is calculated.
One of the most common of these is where the property owner is a minor (under 18) at the time the damage occurs. In this situation, the one-year statute of limitations "clock" for getting any property damage lawsuit filed probably won't start running until the property owner turns 18.
There are other situations that could effectively extend the statute of limitations filing deadline, but they're too complex to explain here. If you've got questions about the statute of limitations as it applies to your potential property damage lawsuit, an experienced Louisiana attorney will have the answers.
Where you'll file your Louisiana property damage lawsuit depends in large part on how much you're seeking in the way of compensation for your losses ("damages" in the language of the law).
If your damages are significant, and could reach $20,000 or more, Louisiana's district courts are probably the right option. There are 42 judicial districts in Louisiana, each consisting of at least one parish. You'll usually file your property damage lawsuit in the district where the person you're suing lives.
There are also 50 city courts in Louisiana, where you can't ask for more than a certain amount from the person you're suing. The limit might be anywhere from $15,000 to $50,000, depending on the particular court's rules.
Yes. Small claims court is an option for your Louisiana property damage case, as long as you're not seeking more than $5,000 from the defendant. Learn more about bringing a case in Louisiana small claims court.
It can be a challenge to find a lawyer who's willing to take a standalone property damage claim, and paying for the lawyer's services might not be worth it, if the case is fairly straightforward and there's insurance coverage in play. Handling the claim process on your own, at least initially, might make the most sense.
But reaching out to a Louisiana lawyer in your area might be a good idea if things get contentious. And a lawyer's help might be crucial if, on top of property damage, your case involves personal injury or some other legal issue. Get tips on finding the right lawyer for you and your case.