In Michigan, if you've had your property damaged as a result of someone else's negligent or intentional action, you could be thinking about filing a lawsuit over the incident. If so, it’s important to understand Michigan's statute of limitations for property damage lawsuits, whether your potential case involves real property (damage to your house or your land) or personal property (including vehicle damage).
First, we should translate the legalese: A "statute of limitations" is just a state law that limits how much time can pass before you can file a civil lawsuit in court. Every state has passed these laws, and the time limits vary depending on the subject matter of the lawsuit.
In Michigan, 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. This rule can be found at Michigan Compiled Laws section 600.5805, which says "the period of limitations is 3 years after the time of the death or injury for all actions to recover damages for the death of a person, or for injury to a person or property."
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 a standalone lawsuit or part of a larger legal action (a car accident case that includes claims for both personal injury and vehicle damage, for example; although in Michigan, the same three-year deadline applies to both personal injuries and property damage).
If you try to file your Michigan 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 in the next section), the court is sure to grant the dismissal. Once that happens, you've essentially lost your right to any legal remedy for your damaged or destroyed property. So, even if you’re convinced that your property damage case will settle out of court, you still want to leave yourself plenty of time to file a lawsuit if you need to.
In a Michigan property damage lawsuit -- and most other kinds of civil lawsuits, for that matter -- a number of situations could pause ("toll" in legalese) or extend the lawsuit filing deadline set by the statute of limitations. These include:
Other exceptions may also apply to extend the Michigan statute of limitations time limit, but they're too complex to cover in this article. 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 Michigan attorney.