What is the Property Damage Statute of Limitations in Utah?

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

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

In Utah, if you've had your property ("real" or personal) damaged as a result of someone else's negligent or intentional action, you could be considering a civil lawsuit over the incident. If so, it's important to understand the Utah statute of limitations as it applies to property damage claims.

What Is a "Statute of Limitations'?

By way of background, a "statute of limitations" is a state law that (as the term suggests) limits your right to have a civil court consider your lawsuit, by setting a strictly-enforced deadline for getting the case started. Miss the deadline, and you effectively lose the right to bring your case to court. Every state has passed these kinds of laws, with time limits that vary depending on the kind of case being filed.

The Property Damage Lawsuit Filing Deadline in Utah

In Utah, the statute of limitations filing deadline for lawsuits over damage to a house, some other building, or to most personal property can be found at Utah Code section 78B-2-305, which sets a three-year deadline for the filing of a lawsuit:

  • for waste, trespass upon, or injury to real property, or
  • for taking, detaining, or injuring personal property

So, for example, this deadline applies to a lawsuit filed by a homeowner claiming that physical damage to the exterior of her house was caused by a neighbor's negligence. It also applies to a civil lawsuit if one person damages or destroys someone else's antique furniture.

Utah's Statute of Limitations for Lawsuits Over Vehicle Damage

For lawsuits over vehicle damage (whether or not that damage resulted from a car accident), a four-year filing deadline applies, set by Utah Code section 78B-2-307(3).

When Does the Statute of Limitations "Clock" Start In Utah?

Whichever property damage statute of limitations deadline applies to a Utah lawsuit, the "clock" typically starts running on the day of the incident that led to the damage, although in an attempt to push the filing deadline back, the property owner could argue that the damage—or the cause of the damage—couldn't reasonably have been discovered right away.

Missing the Filing Deadline in Utah

At this point you might be wondering what will happen if you try to file your Utah property damage lawsuit after the time limit has passed. In that situation:

  • the defendant (the person you're trying to sue) will almost certainly file a motion with the court, asking that the case be dismissed, and
  • the court is sure to grant the dismissal, unless rare circumstances make an extension of the deadline appropriate (more on these rules in the next section).

As you can see, it's crucial to pay attention to (and comply with) the Utah 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.

Can the Property Damage Statute of Limitations Deadline Be Extended In Utah?

For most kinds of lawsuits in Utah, including civil cases over property damage, a number of situations could serve to extend the lawsuit filing deadline set by the statute of limitations.

If the Property Owner Is a Minor or Is Mentally Incompetent

Special rules usually apply if, at the time the property damage occurs, the property owner is "under the age of majority" (which means 18 in Utah) or "mentally incompetent." In those situations, the statute of limitations "clock" won't start running against the property owner (unless there is a legal guardian in place) until he or she turns 18 or is declared competent, according to Utah Code section 78B-2-108.

When the Defendant Is Absent From the State

When the defendant (the person who is alleged to have caused the property damage) departs from the state before a lawsuit can be filed against him or her, the period of absence probably won't be counted as part of the time limit for filing suit. This rule can be found at Utah Code section 78B-2-104.

Other circumstances may affect the Utah statute of limitations, and how the time window is calculated. If you have questions about the statute of limitations as it applies to your potential property damage lawsuit, an experienced Utah attorney will have the answers.

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

Yes. As long as you're not asking for more than $15,000 in compensation for your damaged or destroyed property, you can file your case in Utah small claims court.

Learn more about small claims court rules and what to expect.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Handle My Property Damage Case?

Not necessarily. If there's insurance coverage that applies, handling the property damage claim process on your own might make sense. It can be tough to find an attorney for cases that involve only property damage. And paying for a lawyer might not even be worth it unless your losses are significant.

But a Utah lawyer's help might be necessary if your case also involves personal injury or some other legal issue, or if there's simply a lot at stake in terms of the value of the property. Get tips on finding the right lawyer for you and your case.

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