What is the Property Damage Statute of Limitations in New Jersey?

If you're thinking about filing a lawsuit over damaged or destroyed property in New Jersey, pay attention to the statute of limitations for these kinds of claims, or your right to sue could be lost.

If you've had your property damaged or destroyed in New Jersey, you could be thinking about filing a lawsuit over what happened. If so, it’s important to understand the New Jersey statute of limitations for property damage lawsuits, whether your potential case involves real property (damage to your house or your land) or personal property.

First, a little background, for those unfamiliar with the term. A "statute of limitations" is a state law that puts a limit on how much time can pass before you file a lawsuit, once you've been harmed or suffered some kind of loss. Every state has passed these laws, and the time limits vary depending on the subject matter of the lawsuit.

The Filing Deadline in New Jersey

In New Jersey, the filing deadline that applies to a property damage lawsuit is the same whether the plaintiff (the person filing the lawsuit) is seeking the repair or replacement of damaged or destroyed real property (like a house or other structure, or land itself) or personal property (including vehicle damage).

Specifically, New Jersey Revised Statutes section 2A:14-1 says that a lawsuit "for any tortious injury to real or personal property...shall be commenced within 6 years next after the cause of any such action shall have accrued." Here, "tortious" just means wrongful or negligent conduct.

So, any New Jersey property damage lawsuit must be filed within six years of the action that resulted in harm to (or destruction of) the property owner's real or personal property.

It's important to note that this filing 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 or a standalone lawsuit.

Missing the Filing Deadline

What if the filing deadline set by the statute of limitations has passed, but you try to file your property damage lawsuit anyway? In that situation, you can count on the defendant (the person you're trying to sue) asking the court to dismiss the case. And, except in rare instances where an exemption from the statute of limitations deadline applies (more on these exceptions in the next section), the court will almost certainly 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 Deadline in New Jersey

In any New Jersey property damage lawsuit -- and most other kinds of civil lawsuits filed in the state matter -- a few situations could pause (or "toll," in legalese) or extend the statute of limitations deadline. These include:

  • if the defendant leaves the state after committing the alleged property damage, and service of process on him or her is not possible, the running of the statute of limitations "clock" is suspended for the length of the absence, according to New Jersey Revised Statutes section 2A:14-22, and
  • if, at the time the property damage occurs, the property owner is under the age of 18, or if a mental disability prevents the property owner from understanding his or her legal rights or commencing a lawsuit, the six-year time period will not start until the property owner turns 18 or regains the requisite mental capacity. (New Jersey Revised Statutes section 2A:14-21.

Other exceptions may also apply to extend the New Jersey 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 New Jersey attorney.

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