If you're thinking about filing a lawsuit after any kind of car accident in Iowa -- whether over injuries suffered in the crash, or to get compensation for damage to your vehicle -- you need to keep the “statute of limitations” in mind and make sure you follow it. (A little background, for those who aren't fluent in “legalese”: A “statute of limitations” is a law that limits the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit in the civil court system. Every state has these kinds of laws on the books, and they set different deadlines depending on the kind of case you want to bring.)
The statute of limitations that will apply to most Iowa car accident lawsuits is the same as the larger one that applies to most personal injury cases filed in the state. Specifically, Iowa Code section 614.1 gives you two years to ask the Iowa civil courts for a remedy for any kind of personal injury caused by someone else. In the context of a car accident, that means whether you were injured as a driver, passenger, motorcycle rider, bicyclist, or pedestrian, you must get your Iowa car accident lawsuit filed within two years, and the “clock” starts running on the date of the car accident.
But if your lawsuit is limited to damage to your vehicle (or if you are seeking the repair or replacement of some other kind of property that was damaged by a vehicle), you have five years to get your case filed in court. That deadline is also set by Iowa Code section 614.1. (Learn more about Vehicle Damage Claims.)
Why is it so important to pay attention to the Iowa statute of limitations? First, if you miss the applicable deadline and try to file your car accident lawsuit anyway, the person you’re trying to sue will almost certainly file a motion to dismiss, the court will almost surely grant the motion, and your case will be over before it can even get started. There are a few situations that will extend the running of the statute of limitations “clock” in Iowa, but they are pretty rare. Talk to an experienced Iowa car accident attorney for the details on those exceptions.
Bottom line: It's always smart to leave yourself plenty of time under the statute of limitations. Two years (and especially five years) may seem like a long time, but it's always better to turn your car accident claim over to an experienced lawyer sooner rather than later. Keep all your options open and protect your legal rights.
And even if you think your car insurance claim is going to settle, it’s still important to have the statute of limitations deadline in mind. If the insurance company knows you have the option of taking the case to court, they're going to be very motivated to settle and put the matter behind them -- instead of putting it in the hands of a jury. (On a related note, if the statutory filing deadline is approaching and the insurance adjuster knows that, he or she may try to stall settlement talks, so watch out for that strategy.)
Get more information on Iowa Car Accident Settlements and Lawsuits.