Injured in a motor vehicle crash, slip and fall on property, or another type of accident?
You’re probably considering filing a personal injury lawsuit to recover your losses.
As you mull over your decision, remember that there are time limitations that affect your rights. These time limits are called the statute of limitations.
There’s a statute of limitations in every US state, including Iowa, and the law can have a significant impact on whether you can get compensation for your losses.
Though you should trust a personal injury lawyer to handle the details, you should still review the time limits to file a case in your state.
Overview of the Iowa Statute of Limitations in Personal Injury Cases
A statute of limitations establishes a time limit on your right to file a lawsuit in a personal injury case.
Under Iowa’s statute of limitations, you have two years, in most cases, to start litigation against the at-fault party. The clock starts running on the date of your accident.
Note that filing a claim with an insurance company is NOT the same as filing a lawsuit in court. The statute of limitations doesn’t stop while you’re trying to negotiate an out-of-court settlement.
The time limit may be as short as a year when a state, a county, or a city is involved.
This is why you need an experienced personal injury lawyer to assist you with your claim as early as possible.
Severe Consequences for Missing the Filing
If you don’t start a lawsuit in civil court within the one or two-year statute of limitations, you lose the right to seek compensation.
The law acts as a complete defense, which means that the defendant can request the court to dismiss your case.
You’re forever barred from recovering monetary damages once you are beyond this time limit.
Full Episode Transcript
Welcome to Legal Squeaks. I am your host, Dennis VanDerGinst. And before we start on today’s topic, I want to remind you all, please subscribe to Legal Squeaks and click the like button on your favorite podcast platform.
It’s free, it’s easy and we’d be forever grateful. Today, I’m going to talk to you about an important legal deadline known as the statute of limitations. A statute of limitations is the law that sets the maximum amount of time that parties involved in a dispute have to initiate legal proceedings from the date of an alleged offense, whether that’s a civil or criminal offense. So in criminal cases, that’s the law that forbids prosecutors from charging someone with a crime that was committed more than a specified number of years ago.
In civil cases, it refers to the time frame in which someone may file a lawsuit against someone else. Failure to do so within that time frame can forever bar them from the right to do so. Ironically, the initials SOL are very appropriate because if you miss the deadlines outlined by the statute of limitations, you may also be pardon the language, but “shit out of luck” when it comes to getting your remedy for your legal problem. So that’s in a nutshell, pretty easy, right?
Well, if only that were the case. But as with many legal issues, there are variations and exceptions that often apply. For instance, there are different deadlines for criminal cases, depending upon whether they refer to state or federal charges. And obviously, they also differ depending on the nature of the charges that are alleged. But since the decisions as to prosecute prosecuting a criminal case generally rests with various state or federal prosecutors who evaluate whether any time limitations may apply. We’re not going to delve very deeply into the SOLs as they apply to criminal cases.
And we’re going to focus more on civil cases. The deadlines for civil cases depend on which state laws apply and the type of civil case. For instance, is it a contract case? Is it an injury case? Is it a medical malpractice case, etc.? In addition, there are sometimes exceptions that might be applied under certain circumstances, and these exceptions can either extend or shorten the requisite times to file. And there are also sometimes additional notice requirements must be met in order to pursue a legal remedy.
And what I mean by that is that in some cases, in some states, in addition with complying with a statute of limitations, perhaps you’re also required to serve notice of your potential claim to various parties. Or in other situations, situations you may need to exhaust other administrative remedies before you’re allowed to file a lawsuit. For instance, in Iowa, an injured person intending to pursue a Dram shop action–and that’s an action where one person is alleging that he or she was injured as a result of someone becoming over served and thus intoxicated–in those situations,
You–if you’re in Iowa–an injured person has to file a written notice with the appropriate party within six months of the date of the accident. And that’s a notice of their intention to file a lawsuit. It’s not an actual filing of a lawsuit, but if they fail to file that notice, their case may be dismissed even if they filed the lawsuit within the applicable statute of limitations. Likewise, in Iowa and other states, before being allowed to file a lawsuit against a state entity or a state employee, you must first submit the claim through an administrative process.
And if you don’t go through that administrative process first, again, your lawsuit, even if it’s timely, filed within the statute of limitations, might be dismissed. In most states and in most civil cases, the date which triggers the statute of limitations may also be delayed if the complaining party is under a legal disability at that at the time, it would have otherwise been triggered. For instance, in most if not all states a minors triggering date for the statute of limitations does not begin until they’ve attained their majority, at age 18.
So in a state like Illinois, where the statute of limitations for most personal injury cases, for instance, is two years, if the person who was harmed was a minor at the time of the injury, their statute of limitations would not accrue and therefore would not, it would not accrue until their 18th birthday and therefore it would not expire until two years after reaching their 18th–18th birthday. And these types of exceptions vary from state to state. Normally, also, they’re not only applicable to minor plaintiffs, but also those who are suffering from any legal disability.
Another exception, which sometimes applies to statute of limitations requirements is what’s known as the discovery rule. This often applies in the context of medical malpractice cases. And the way that works is to delay that triggering of the statute of limitations to the date that the plaintiff knew, or in the exercise of reasonable care, reasonably should have known of the injury and the negligence. This doctrine protects people in circumstances where they can’t discover, discover their injury until the statute of limitations has already run.
So, for instance, in the context of a medical malpractice case, sometimes a person’s unaware of the injury or the negligence until after that requisite time period. For instance, if it’s two years, perhaps they’re not aware beyond two years that they’ve even been injured. For example, it’s not that uncommon for surgical instruments or sponges to be left inside someone during a surgical procedure. That type of negligence can certainly cause injury or illness long after the procedure. And the plaintiff, the harmed person, may not even feel the effects of that negligence until after the statute of limitations would have already expired.
Therefore, it’s only reasonable that an exception and extension be applied when there was no reasonable way for the injured party to have known that they had been injured or understood the nature of the injury until after the deadline had passed. Statutes of limitations can also vary depending on the nature of the defendant. For instance, in some states, the statute of limitations is shorter if the defendant is a city or a county.
So for all of these reasons, if you have a potential legal case against someone, it makes sense to reach out to an attorney in order to ensure that you don’t miss your opportunity to pursue that case due to missing important notices or filing deadlines.
I hope this information was useful. I hope that you’ll never have to use it. Please check in to Legal Squeaks next week when we’ll discuss another important legal or consumer matter which may impact your daily life. If you haven’t already done so, please subscribe to Legal Squeaks on your favorite podcast platform. Also, please check out our other podcast, Uncommon Convos. And you can go to LegalSqueaks.Com to suggest topics for future episodes and to check out the video version of this and other episodes. Until then, when we see you next week,
Stay safe, and I love you all.
Special Considerations Under the Iowa Statute of Limitations
There are some notes to keep in mind about the law, which could still allow you to file a lawsuit after the statute of limitations has run out:
- If you were not able to discover your injuries through reasonable diligence, you may have extra time to file a lawsuit. This situation occasionally arises in medical malpractice cases, where the patient didn’t know about the injury until more than a year or two after it occurred.
- Under 18, you’re a minor and under a legal disability. Only adults can file a lawsuit. The clock starts when you reach the age of 18.
- There are other limited circumstances when there may be an argument to get around a statute of limitations. This takes an experienced attorney to identify and guide you through these situations.
Speak to a Personal Injury Attorney for Free
If you have more questions about the Iowa statutes of limitations and how it applies to personal injury cases, please contact VanDerGinst Law and talk to one of our attorneys or intake specialists today.
We can provide more detail on your claim after we learn more about your circumstances.
The information contained on this website is presented by VanDerGinst Law P.C. It is not intended nor should it be construed as professional legal advice. The information is general in nature about the Firm, the scope of services we offer, and our community outreach, it is not legal advice. Please contact us by phone, email, mail, or via this website for inquiries. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please contact a personal injury attorney for a consultation regarding your situation. This website is not intended to solicit clients outside the State of Iowa and/or the State of Illinois.