What Is the Property Damage Statute of Limitations in Massachusetts?

Comply with the Massachusetts statute of limitations or you could lose your right to compensation for damaged or destroyed property.

By , J.D. · University of San Francisco School of Law

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.

What Is a Statute of Limitations?

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.

What is Massachusetts' Statute of Limitations for Property Damage Lawsuits?

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:

  • real property (including damage to your house or your land) or
  • personal property (including vehicle damage).

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.

What Happens 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 reach a settlement, you still want to leave yourself plenty of time to file a lawsuit if you need to.

Can the Statute of Limitations Filing Period Be Extended In Massachusetts?

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:

  • If the defendant (the person you're trying to sue) takes up residence outside 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" will probably pause 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," they will have three years to file the lawsuit once they reach the age of 18 or have their 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. Do your own research or talk to an attorney for the details.

Where Do I File a Property Damage Lawsuit In Massachusetts?

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 planning on asking for less than $50,000 in damages from the person who damaged or destroyed your property, you'll file your lawsuit in Massachusetts District Court (there are 62 situated across the state).
  • If the amount you're seeking is more than $50,000, Superior Court is typically the right place to file your property damage lawsuit. Learn more about the Massachusetts court system (from Mass.gov).

Filing a Property Damage Lawsuit In Massachusetts Small Claims Courts

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.

Do I Need a Lawyer for a Massachusetts Property Damage Claim?

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:

  • your case involves personal injury or some other legal issue, in addition to property damage, or
  • you've tried making an insurance claim and the company's response seems outlandish or unprofessional to you, making a bad faith insurance claim a possibility.

Get tips on finding the right lawyer for you and your case.

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