If you've had your property damaged as a result of someone else's careless or intentional action in Tennessee, you might be thinking about filing a lawsuit over what happened. If so, it's important to understand the Tennessee statute of limitations and how it applies to your potential civil case.
For those 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.
In this article, we'll explain the property damage lawsuit filing deadline in Tennessee, the consequences of missing the deadline, and a few rare situations in which you might be able to extend the time limit.
In Tennessee, 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 three years.This rule can be found at Tennessee Code section 28-3-105, which sets this three-year deadline for all "actions for injuries to personal or real property."
So, if a homeowner wants to bring a lawsuit for physical damage to the exterior of a house caused by someone else's negligence, that case must be brought within three years in Tennessee. The same goes for a vehicle damage claim 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 his or her property.
What happens if you try to file your Tennessee property damage lawsuit after the three-year time limit has expired? 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 this later).
If that happens, you've essentially lost your right to any legal remedy for your damaged property. That's why it's crucial to pay attention to (and comply with) the Tennessee statute of limitations for property damage claims.
For most kinds of civil lawsuits in Tennessee -- including property damage claims -- a number of (relatively rare) situations could effectively extend the three-year lawsuit filing deadline laid out in the statute of limitations.
For example, special rules apply if, at the time the property damage occurs, the property owner is "under eighteen years of age, or adjudicated incompetent." In those situations, since the property owner is considered to be under a "legal disability," the three-year "clock" won't start running until the period of disability ends (meaning the property owner turns 18 or is declared competent). This rule can be found at Tennessee Code section 28-1-106.
And if the person who is alleged to have caused the property damage leaves the state of Tennessee after the damage occurs, but before the lawsuit is filed, the period of his or her absence probably won't be counted as part of the three-year time limit for filing suit, according to Tennessee Code section 28-1-111.
Other circumstances may affect the Tennessee 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 -- especially if the filing deadline is fast approaching -- an experienced Tennessee attorney will have the answers. Learn more about Finding an Excellent Lawyer.