Legal Articles

Adel attorney Adam DollKnow Your Rights – Statute of Limitations

Adam Doll | Hopkins & Huebner, P.C. | Adel Office

It’s important for everyone to know their rights under the law; whether it is rights you may have under criminal law or under civil law.  This article will discuss Iowa’s laws as they pertain to statute of limitations in the civil law arena, which are contained in Iowa Code Chapter 614.

What is a statute of limitation?

First of all, it’s important to know the definition of a “statute of limitation”.  A statute of limitation is a law that sets a time limit after an injury or civil wrong occurs in which the aggrieved party may enforce that wrong in a court of law.  After the statutory time period has run on that claim, it will no longer be enforceable through the courts.  Statutes of limitations serve a valuable purpose in that they ensure potential claims are brought within a reasonable amount of time of the “wrongdoing” while at the same time not letting a potential claim hang over the head of the alleged wrongdoer their whole lives.

The statute of limitations commences when a “cause of action” accrues.  For purposes of this article, this means when the wrong occurs that caused the damage (however there are exceptions that will not be discussed here).  A good example to see how statute of limitations operates is a car accident.  If a person were to be injured in a car accident, that injury would be considered as “an injury to the person” under Iowa Code § 614.1(2).  As a general rule, Iowa law will give that person 2 years from the date of that injury/loss to initiate a legal proceeding against the at-fault party or parties.  If a legal action is not brought within that time period then that person will likely lose all rights under the law to make a valid legal claim.

Photo of a man in a suit holding out his outstretched hand and an open book on the tableLimitation Periods

Limitation periods vary in time periods for different types of claims.  Legal claims based on unwritten contracts or injuries to property must be brought within 5 years, while injuries based off of written contracts must be brought within 10 years.  Generally speaking, medical malpractice injuries have a 2 year limitation period, but the statute does not begin to run until the injured party knew or, through the use of reasonable diligence, should have known of the injury (this is called the “Discovery Rule”).  Additionally, in no event can an action be brought for medical malpractice after 6 years from date of injury, unless the injury is caused by a foreign object left in the body.

It becomes readily apparent as to why knowing when the applicable statute of limitation runs when one realizes their claim becomes invalid and unenforceable after the applicable time period runs.  Letting a statute of limitation time period run without filing a claim can have significant financial consequences for the aggrieved party.