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

Understand the New York statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit over damaged or destroyed property, or you could lose your right to any legal remedy for your losses.

If you've had your property damaged in New York, you might be considering filing a lawsuit against whoever is legally responsible for what happened. In that case, one of your first considerations is understanding the statute of limitations for property damage lawsuits in New York.

For those unfamiliar with the term, a "statute of limitations" is a state law that puts a deadline on your right to file a lawsuit over any kind of legal dispute or harm suffered. Every state has passed these laws, and the time limits vary depending on the subject matter of the lawsuit.

In this article, we'll explain the filing deadline in New York, discuss why this rule is so crucial to your rights, and touch on a few rare exceptions that could extend the filing deadline.

The Filing Deadline in New York

In New York, a  three-year  filing deadline applies to any lawsuit seeking the repair or replacement of damaged or destroyed property, whether your potential case involves real property (damage to your house or your land) or personal property (including  vehicle damage). You'll find this law codified at New York Civil Practice Law & Rules section 214.

The statute of limitations "clock" starts running on the day the property damage occurs. So a New York property owner has three years from that date to get any civil lawsuit filed against the person who caused the damage or destruction.

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 or a standalone lawsuit. Of course, given that the same statute of limitations applies to most injury-based lawsuits in New York, chances are that any case involving both personal injury and property damage (a  car accident case  for example) will be subject to the same three-year filing deadline.

If You Miss the Filing Deadline

If you try to file your New York property damage lawsuit after the three-year window has closed, the defendant (the person you're trying to sue) will almost certainly make a motion asking the court to dismiss the case. And, except in rare situations where an exception to the deadline applies (more on these in the next section), the court will grant the dismissal. If that happens, you've lost your right to any legal remedy for your damaged property. So, even if you’re pretty sure your property damage dispute will be resolved out of court, you still want to leave yourself plenty of time to file a lawsuit if settlement talks break down. Otherwise, you've lost all your negotiation leverage.

Extending the Statute of Limitations Deadline in New York

In a New York 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:

  • If the defendant (the person you’re trying to sue) is out of the state when the property damage occurs, leaves the state for a period of more than four months, or lives in the state under a false name, the time of his or her absence (or concealed identity) usually won't be counted as part of the three-year time period. (New York Civil Practice Law & Rules section 207.)
  • If the property owner is "under a disability because of infancy or insanity" at the time the property damage occurs, meaning he or she is under the age of 18 or has been declared legally incompetent, "the time within which the action must be commenced shall be extended to three years after the disability ceases or the person under the disability dies, whichever event first occurs," according to New York Civil Practice Law & Rules section 208.

Other exceptions may also apply to extend the New York statute of limitations time limit, but they're too complex to cover in this article.

If the three-year deadline has passed on your property damage lawsuit -- or if the deadline is fast approaching -- it's time to talk with an experienced New York attorney to understand your options and protect your rights.

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