What’s the Deadline for Filing a Case in Iowa?

The “statute of limitations” for injury cases in Iowa is two years. In other words, if you’re injured, Iowa law gives you two years to file a lawsuit against the person or company that negligently caused your injuries. There are exceptions to the two-year deadline on injury cases. Different deadlines apply to other types of cases. Some deadlines are shorter – as short as six months. In this post, I will go over a few of them and answer some common questions the LaMarca Law Group, P.C. receives about statutes of limitations, statutes of repose, notice requirements, and other deadlines.

  • Personal injury: Two years. Iowa Code § 614.1(2).
  • Assault and battery: Two years. Iowa Code § 614.1(2).
  • Defamation, libel, and slander: Two years. Iowa Code § 614.1(2).
  • Medical malpractice: Two years, with some exceptions. Iowa Code § 614.1(9). The two-year deadline begins to run on the first date that the patient knew or should have known about the injury caused by the malpractice. But if that date is many years after the actual medical treatment that created the problem, there is another deadline that applies. The malpractice case must be filed within six years of the date on which the negligent medical treatment occurred. The patient has to comply with both deadlines—the case has to be filed within two years of finding out about the injury and no later than six years from the occurrence. Iowa Code § 614.1(9).
  • Written contracts: Ten years. Iowa Code § 614.1(5).
  • Unwritten contracts: Five years. Iowa Code § 614.1(4).
  • Wages: Two years. Iowa Code § 614.1(8).
  • Property damage: Five years. Iowa Code § 614.1(4).
  • Workers’ compensation: If the victim’s injury occurred in the course of and arising out of his or her employment, the deadline to give the employer notice of the injury is 90 days. Iowa Code § 85.23. There are two more deadlines that apply to actually file the case with the Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commission.
    • If the employee has not received weekly work comp benefits, the filing deadline is two years after the date of injury. Iowa Code § 85.26.
    • If the employee has received benefits, the deadline is three years after the last payment of weekly benefits. Iowa Code § 85.26.
  • Employment discrimination: 300 days. Iowa Code § 216.15(13). This is the deadline for filing a complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, the first step before filing an employment discrimination lawsuit. There are several other deadlines that apply after the Complaint is filed, depending on the course the case takes through the Commission.

Exceptions to these Deadlines

There are several exceptions to these deadlines. Some of them make the deadlines shorter, like “statutes of repose.” Others make the deadlines longer, like in cases involving minors.

Unsafe or Defective Construction: If an injury was caused by the unsafe condition of a building or by defective construction, there is an additional deadline that applies. If a person is injured because of faulty construction of a house, his or her case has to be filed within two years of the incident that caused the injury, but it can’t be filed later than ten years after the construction of the house. Iowa Code § 614.1(11)(a)(2). For non-residential construction, that period is eight years. Iowa Code § 614.1(11)(a)(3). That period of time can be extended against someone who fraudulently concealed the unsafe condition. Iowa Code § 614.1(11)(b). It can also be extended where the injured person did not find out about the unsafe condition until the last year of this period. Iowa Code § 614.1(11)(c).

Minors: When a person is injured as a minor, the deadline is extended to one year after becoming an adult. Iowa Code § 614.8. However, when a child is injured, some of the most important parts of that child’s case are the parents’ claims. The deadline for the parents’ claims is two years, and it is not extended because of the age of the child.

Another law states that when a child is injured as a result of sexual abuse, but the injury is not discovered until that person is an adult, the deadline for filing a case is four years after the date on which the individual discovered the injury. Iowa Code § 614.8A. Yet another law applies to cases involving sexual exploitation by a counselor, therapist, or school employee. This law creates a deadline of five years after the last date that the victim was treated by the counselor or therapist or five years after the last date the victim was enrolled in the school. Iowa Code § 614.1(12). If more than one of these deadlines applies to the case, the victim must comply with all of the deadlines.

Another exception to the normal personal injury statute of limitations involves “Dram shop” cases. A dram shop case is a case against a bar or restaurant that served liquor to a person who then injured a victim because he or she was intoxicated. The first application deadline is six months. Within six months of the injury, the injured person must give written notice to the bar or restaurant or its insurance carrier. Iowa Code § 123.93 contains this requirement and the specific information that has to be in the notice. The case must then be filed within two years of the injury as with any other personal injury action.

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