What is the Property Damage Statute of Limitations in Missouri?

If you don't comply with Missouri's statute of limitations lawsuit-filing deadline, you could lose your right to get compensation for damaged or destroyed property.

By , J.D.

If you've had your property damaged as a result of someone else's careless or intentional action in Missouri, you could be considering filing a lawsuit over what happened. If so, it's important to understand the Missouri statute of limitations as it applies to property damage claims.

What Is a "Statute of Limitations"?

For readers 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 they 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.

What is Missouri's Statute of Limitations for Filing a Property Damage Lawsuit?

In Missouri, a property damage lawsuit must be filed within five years, according to Missouri Revised Statutes section 516.120, which sets this time limit for:

  • "an action for trespass on real estate"
  • "an action for taking, detaining or injuring any goods or chattels" (which includes causing damage to personal property), and
  • "any other injury to the person or rights of another."

So, this five-year deadline applies whether your potential case involves damage to (or destruction of):

  • real property (physical damage to your house or your land, for example), or
  • personal property (including vehicle damage claims after a car accident).

In both situations, the statute of limitations "clock" usually starts ticking as soon as the property owner becomes aware (or should have become aware) that someone else caused damage to their property.

Learn more about making a claim for property damage.

What If I Miss the Missouri Filing Deadline?

If you try to file your Missouri property damage lawsuit after the five-year time window has closed, you can count on the defendant (the person you're trying to sue) asking the court to throw out the case. And the court is certain to grant the dismissal, unless rare circumstances apply to make an extension of the deadline appropriate (more on these exceptions in the next section).

If your lawsuit is dismissed, you've lost your right to any legal remedy for your damaged property. That's why it's crucial to pay attention to—and make sure you comply with—the Missouri statute of limitations as it applies to property damage claims.

Can the Lawsuit-Filing Deadline Be Extended In Missouri?

For most kinds of civil lawsuits in Missouri—including property damage claims—a number of situations could effectively extend the five-year lawsuit filing deadline laid out in the statute of limitations. Let's look at one example.

If the Property Owner Is Under a "Legal Disability." If the property owner is under the age of 21 or is mentally incapacitated at the time the damage occurs, they'll usually have the full five years to bring the property damage lawsuit once this period of so-called "legal disability" ends (meaning once the property owner turns 21 or is declared competent), according to Missouri Revised Statutes section 516.170.

Other situations might pause the running of the statute of limitations "clock" in Missouri. Do your own research or talk to a lawyer for the details.

Where Do I File a Property Damage Lawsuit In Missouri?

Where you file your Missouri property damage lawsuit depends on how much you're seeking as compensation for your losses.

If your losses ("damages") look like they'll add up to less than $25,000, you'll likely file your lawsuit in one of Missouri's Associated Circuit Civil Courts. If your damages will probably amount to more than $25,000, the Circuit Civil Court (for the county where the person you're suing lives) is typically the right place to file. Learn more about the Missouri Court System (from courts.mo.gov)

    Can I File a Missouri Property Damage Case In Small Claims Court?

    Yes. If you're not planning on asking for more than $5,000 as compensation for your damaged or destroyed property, you might consider small claims court, which in Missouri is run as a division of the state's Circuit Courts. Get more information on filing a case in the Missouri Circuit Court Small Claims Division.

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

    If your property damage case is fairly straightforward, it usually makes sense to handle it on your own and try to get a fair settlement before you need to take the matter to court. It can even be a challenge finding 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, on top of your property damage, your case involves personal injury or some other legal issue. Get tips on finding the right lawyer for you and your case.

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