What is the Property Damage Statute of Limitations in Massachusetts?

Understand and abide by the statute of limitations for lawsuits over damaged or destroyed property in Massachusetts, or you could lose your right to hold the at-fault party accountable.

If you've incurred damage to your property in Massachusetts, you could be thinking about filing a lawsuit against the person or organization you think is legally responsible for what happened. If so, it’s important to understand the Massachusetts statute of limitations for property damage claims, whether your potential case involves real property (damage to your house or your land) or personal property (including vehicle damage).

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 or harm suffered, 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.

The Property Damage Lawsuit Filing Deadline in Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, a three-year filing deadline applies to any lawsuit seeking the repair or replacement of damaged or destroyed property, whether it’s real property or personal property. That deadline is codified 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 claims for both personal injury and vehicle damage, for example) or is a standalone lawsuit.

If You Miss the Massachusetts Filing Deadline

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 settle, you still want to leave yourself plenty of time to file a lawsuit if you need to.

Extending the Statute of Limitations Filing Period in Massachusetts

In any 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:

  • If the defendant (the person you’re trying to sue) was (or is) residing out of the state, the time of the defendant's absence likely won't be counted as part of the three-year period. (Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 260 Section 9)
  • If the defendant takes steps to fraudulently conceal the cause of the property damage or destruction, the running of the statute of limitations "clock" is paused until the property owner discovers the true cause. (Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 260 Section 12).
  • If the property owner is, at the time the underlying property damage occurs, a minor (under 18 years of age) or "incapacitated by reason of mental illness," he or she will have three years to file the lawsuit upon reaching the age of 18 or having the legal incapacity removed. (Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 260 Section 7)

Other exceptions (too complex to cover in this article) may also apply to extend the Massachusetts statute of limitations time limit. To learn the details of exceptions to the statute of limitations, especially if the filing deadline has passed on your property damage lawsuit -- or if the filing deadline is fast approaching -- talk with an experienced Massachusetts attorney.

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