If you've had your property damaged by someone else's careless or intentional act in Virginia, you might be considering bringing a civil lawsuit over what happened. If so, it's important to understand the Virginia statute of limitations as it applies to property damage lawsuits.
In case you're not familiar 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 Virginia, the consequences of missing the deadline, and the (rare) situations in which the time limit might be extended.
In Virginia, 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 filed within five years, according to Code of Virginia section 8.01-243, which sets this time limit for "every action for injury to property."
So, if a homeowner wants to bring a lawsuit for physical damage to the exterior of his/her house after a car crashes into it, that case must be brought within five years in Virginia. 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 Virginia property damage lawsuit after the filing window has closed? In that situation, you can count on the defendant (the person you're trying to sue) making a motion asking the court to dismiss the case, based on the missed deadline. And the court is certain to grant the dismissal unless rare circumstances apply to 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 Virginia statute of limitations as it applies to property damage claims.
For most kinds of civil lawsuits in Virginia -- including property damage claims -- a number of situations could effectively extend the five-year lawsuit filing deadline as laid out in the statute of limitations.
For example, if the property owner is an unemancipated minor or is legally incapacitated at the time the damage occurs, he or she will have the full five years to bring the property damage lawsuit once the period of "legal disability" ends (the property owner turns 18 or is declared competent) to bring the lawsuit. Code of Virginia section 8.01-229.
Other circumstances may affect the computation of the Virginia statute of limitations. 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 Virginia attorney will have the answers. Learn more about Finding an Excellent Lawyer.