In South Dakota, as in every state, if you've had your property damaged as a result of someone else's careless or intentional action, you might consider filing a lawsuit over what happened. If so, it's critical to understand the statute of limitations and how it applies to your potential case.
A "statute of limitations", for those not familiar with the term, is a state law that puts a strictly-enforced limit on how much time can pass before you must file your case. Miss the deadline and you effectively lose the right to bring your case to court. Every state has these laws on the books, with different time limits depending on the kind of case being filed.
In this article, we'll explain the property damage lawsuit filing deadline in South Dakota, the consequences of missing the deadline, and a few rare situations in which you might be able to extend the time limit.
In South Dakota, whether your potential case involves damage to real property (your house or your land, for example) or personal property (including vehicle damage), it must be brought to the state's civil court system within six years, according to South Dakota Codified Laws section 15-2-13. Specifically, this statute sets a six-year deadline for, among other kinds of lawsuits:
So, if a homeowner wants to bring a lawsuit for physical damage to the exterior of his/her house caused by someone else's negligence, that case must be brought within six years in South Dakota. The same goes for a vehicle damage claim after a car accident. The six-year "clock" starts running when the property owner becomes aware (or should reasonably have become aware) of the incident that gave rise to the damage.
What happens if you try to file your South Dakota property damage lawsuit after the time limit has passed? In that situation, it's a safe bet that the defendant (the person you're trying to sue) will file a motion asking the court to dismiss the case. And the court is certain to grant the dismissal unless rare circumstances make an extension of the deadline appropriate (more on these rules later).
If your lawsuit is dismissed as time-barred under the statute of limitations, you've essentially lost your right to any legal remedy for your damaged property. So it's crucial to pay attention to (and comply with) the South Dakota statute of limitations for property damage cases, even if you're fairly certain you'll be able to resolve the situation without resorting to a lawsuit.
For most kinds of civil lawsuits in South Dakota -- including property damage claims -- a number of (relatively rare) situations could serve to extend the six-year lawsuit filing deadline.
For example, special rules usually apply if, at the time the property damage occurs, the property owner is under the age of 18 or "mentally ill". In those situations, the property owner is considered to be under a "legal disability," and once the period of disability ends -- meaning the property owner turns 18 or is declared mentally competent -- he or she will have one year to get a civil lawsuit filed over the property damage. (Note: The period of limitations can't be extended more than five years based on mental illness.) This rule can be found at South Dakota Codified Laws 15-2-22.
And, under South Dakota Codified Laws section 15-2-20, if the person who is alleged to have caused the property damage leaves the state of South Dakota before the lawsuit can be filed, and takes up residence in another state, the period of his or her absence probably won't be counted as part of the six-year time limit for filing suit.
Other circumstances may affect the South Dakota statute of limitations, and how it's calculated. If you've got questions about the statute of limitations as it applies to your potential property damage lawsuit, an experienced South Dakota attorney will have the answers. Learn more about Finding an Excellent Lawyer.