If you've had your property damaged by someone else's carelessness or wrongdoing in Louisiana, you might be thinking about filing a lawsuit in order to enforce your rights and 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 this article, we'll explain the filing deadline that applies to property damage lawsuits in Louisiana, the consequences of missing the deadline, and more.
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 codifies 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.
What happens if you try to file your Louisiana property damage lawsuit after the one-year time limit has expired? 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. 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. One year can come and go pretty quickly, so it's crucial to pay attention to (and comply with) the Louisiana statute of limitations for property damage claims.
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. Unfortunately, these rules are too complex to detail 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 has already passed or is quickly approaching -- an experienced Louisiana attorney will have the answers. Learn more about Finding an Excellent Lawyer.