If you've had your property damaged in Massachusetts, you could be thinking about filing a lawsuit against the person you think is legally responsible for what happened. If so, it's important to understand the Massachusetts statute of limitations that applies to property damage claims.
First, let's explain that a "statute of limitations" is a state law that affects your right to file a lawsuit over any kind of legal dispute, by putting a limit on how much time can pass before you file the case in court. Every state has passed these laws, and the time limits vary depending on the subject matter of the lawsuit.
In Massachusetts, a three-year filing deadline applies to any lawsuit seeking compensation for the repair or replacement of damaged or destroyed property, whether your potential case involves:
This deadline can be found at Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 260 section 2A.
It's important to note that this three-year deadline applies any time you're asking a court to award you monetary compensation for damaged or destroyed property, whether that claim is part of a larger legal action (a car accident case that includes both personal injury and vehicle damage claims, for example) or is a standalone lawsuit.
If you try to file your Massachusetts property damage lawsuit after the three-year deadline has passed, the defendant (the person or organization you're trying to sue) will almost certainly make a motion asking the court to dismiss the case. And, except in rare cases where an exemption from the deadline applies (more on these exceptions in the next section), the court will grant the dismissal.
If that happens, you've essentially lost your right to any legal remedy for your damaged property. So, even if you're pretty sure your property damage case will reach a settlement, you still want to leave yourself plenty of time to file a lawsuit if you need to.
With any potential Massachusetts lawsuit over property damage—and most other kinds of civil cases—a number of situations could pause the running of the statute of limitations clock, effectively extending the lawsuit filing deadline. These include:
Other exceptions (too complex to cover in this article) may also apply to extend the Massachusetts statute of limitations time limit. Do your own research or talk to an attorney for the details.
Where you file your Massachusetts property damage lawsuit mostly hinges on the amount of compensation you're seeking ("damages") from the person you're suing:
If you're asking for $7,000 or less in compensation from the at-fault party, you might want to consider filing your property damage claim in small claims court, where your case is likely to cost you less time and money, compared with the District or Superior courts.
Note that if your case involves vehicle damage resulting from a car accident, your award can exceed the $7,000 small claims court cap.
Get more details on small claims court in Massachusetts.
It usually makes sense to handle a property damage claim on your own, especially if the case is fairly straightforward. You might even find it tough to get a lawyer to take a run-of-the-mill property damage claim. But reaching out to an experienced lawyer—if only to discuss your options—might be a good idea if:
Get tips on finding the right lawyer for you and your case.