What is the Car Accident Statute of Limitations in Iowa?
First things first: a “statute of limitations” is a state law that puts a strict limit on a potential plaintiff’s right to take a dispute to court, by setting a deadline for getting the initial complaint filed (that’s the document that starts a lawsuit). These deadlines differ depending on the kind of case you want to file, but the time limits are almost always expressed in years.
Iowa Code section 614.1 sets the statute of limitations that will apply to almost all injury lawsuits arising from a car accident. This law gives you two years to ask Iowa’s civil court system for a remedy for any kind of personal injury caused by someone else. So, in the context of a car accident, any lawsuit by any driver, passenger, motorcycle rider, bicyclist, or pedestrian injured in the crash will be subject to this two-year filing deadline, and the “clock” starts running on the date of the accident.
That same deadline also governs any Iowa wrongful death lawsuit that might be if anyone was killed as a result of the car accident. The only difference is that for these wrongful death claims, the two-year “clock” starts running on the date of the accident victim’s death (as opposed to the accident date).
Finally, if you had your vehicle or other personal property damaged as a result of the car accident, any lawsuit over the damage must be filed within five years of the date of the accident, and that time limit can also be found in Iowa Code section 614.1.
(Keep in mind that no matter what kind of lawsuit you are bringing over harm caused by a car accident, the case will almost certainly turn on your ability to prove that the other party’s negligence was the cause of the crash. Learn more about Proving Fault for a Car Accident.)
Having read all of this, you may be wondering what happens if you try to file your lawsuit after the statute of limitations deadline has already passed. In that situation, the defendant is sure to ask the court to dismiss the case, and the court is very likely to agree that a dismissal is appropriate. That’s why it’s crucial to understand and abide by the statute of limitations as it applies to your potential car accident lawsuit. If the statute of limitations deadline is approaching, it may be time to talk with an experienced Iowa car accident attorney.
by: David Goguen, J.D.