Q: How long does an injured party have to file a personal injury lawsuit?
A: In Iowa, an injured party has two years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit alleging personal injury damages. This is called a statute of limitations.
However, in some instances, the discovery rule may apply. This means that the two-year statute of limitations is tolled if there was a latent or hidden injury. The theory behind the discovery rule is that it is not fair for an injured party to have to file a lawsuit within two years from the date of the accident if they are not even aware yet that they have suffered an injury. In that situation, the two-year statute of limitation starts on the date the injured person knew (or should have known) that they were injured.
There are other instances when the statute of limitation may be tolled (i.e. if the injured party is a minor, the injured party has a mental illness, etc.).
All parties should be aware of the applicable statute of limitations. For the plaintiff, if a claim is not filed by the statute of limitation date, it may be barred, and the plaintiff cannot recover damages. For the defendants, they have a definite time period that they know they can be sued. After the two years have expired, they likely do not have any exposure for a lawsuit.