What is the Property Damage Statute of Limitations in Texas?

Comply with the Texas statute of limitations or you could lose your right to compensation for damaged or destroyed property.

By , J.D. · University of San Francisco School of Law

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

What Is a Statute of Limitations?

In case you're not familiar with the term, a "statute of limitations" is a state law that affects your right to file a lawsuit over any kind of legal dispute or harm, by putting a limit on how much time can pass before you have to file the case in court. Every state has passed these laws, and the time limits vary depending on the subject matter of the lawsuit.

What Is the Texas Filing Deadline for Property Damage Lawsuits?

In Texas, a two-year filing deadline applies to almost any lawsuit seeking the repair or replacement of damaged or destroyed property, whether it's real property or personal property. You'll find this law at Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code section 16.003, which says, "[A] person must bring suit for trespass for injury to the estate or to the property of another...not later than two years after the day the cause of action accrues."

That last part just means the case must be started within two years of the day on which the property is damaged or destroyed.

It's important to note that this two-year deadline applies in most situations where 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 (a car accident case that includes claims for both personal injury and vehicle damage, for example) or a standalone lawsuit.

Get more details on property damage and making a claim for compensation.

What Statute of Limitations Applies to Construction Defects In Texas?

The standard two year deadline we discussed above might apply to a lawsuit over property damage resulting from a construction defect in Texas, if the basis for the lawsuit is the builder or contractor's negligence. A four year deadline might apply if the lawsuit is focused more on a broken contract or breached warranty stemming from the construction.

But it can be tricky to figure out exactly when the "clock" starts running in these kinds of cases. And there's an over-arching deadline that says most Texas construction defect lawsuits must be filed within ten years of the completion of the project, regardless of whether the problem was (or could reasonably have been) discovered before then.

Bottom line: This area of the law is complicated, and talking with a Texas lawyer might make sense if you think your property damage case involves a construction defect. Learn more:

What Happens If You Miss the Statute of Limitations Deadline In Texas?

If the two-year filing deadline has passed, but you try to file your property damage lawsuit anyway, the defendant (the person or organization you're trying to sue) will almost certainly make a motion asking the court to dismiss the case. And, except in rare cases where an exemption from the deadline applies (more on these exceptions in the next section), the court will 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 reach a settlement, you still want to leave yourself plenty of time to file a lawsuit if you need to.

Extending the Statute of Limitations Deadline in Texas

In a Texas 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 is absent from the state of Texas for any part of the two-year period, the running of the statute of limitations "clock" is suspended for the length of that absence (Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code section 16.063), and
  • if the property owner is "under a legal disability" (for example, they're under the age of 18 or have been declared "of unsound mind") at the time the property damage occurs, the time of the disability is not included in the two-year period. (But note that if a legal disability comes up after the limitations period has already started, that will not suspend the running of the period.) (Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code section 16.001)

Other exceptions may also apply to extend the Texas statute of limitations time limit, but they're too complex to cover in this article. Do a little research of your own or talk with an experienced Texas attorney for the details.

Where Do I File a Property Damage Lawsuit In Texas?

The answer here depends on how much compensation ("damages" in the language of the law) you're asking for from the person you're suing.

Most property damage lawsuits are filed in one of the more than 400 Texas "district" courts, which have jurisdiction over most civil trials in the state. Each Texas county is served by at least one district court, and your lawsuit will likely be filed in the district court that serves the county where the person you're suing lives.

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

Yes. Property damage lawsuits are common in small claims court in Texas, since the dollar limit for small claims cases is fairly high. As long as you're not seeking more than $20,000 as compensation for your damaged or destroyed property, Texas Justice Court—the court that handles small claims matters in Texas—is an option. Learn more about filing a case in Texas small claims court.

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

It usually makes sense to handle a property damage claim on your own and try to get a fair settlement before you need to take the matter to court, as long as the case is fairly straightforward and the stakes aren't too high. 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, a possible construction defect, or some other legal issue. Get tips on finding the right lawyer for you and your case.

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