Iowa Personal Injury Laws & Statutory Rules
Iowa laws on personal injury lawsuits. Learn about the time limits to file, compensation available, fault and liability rules, and more.
Iowa personal injury laws may come into play whether you decide to file a lawsuit in court after an injury, or you're negotiating a settlement with an insurance company. In this article, we'll take a closer look at some key Iowa laws that may apply to your case.
Deadlines for Filing Iowa Injury Lawsuits
Iowa, like other states, sets a deadline for filing personal injury lawsuits in state civil court. In Iowa, you have two years to bring your case to court after an accident or injury. This two-year time limit typically starts running on the date of the accident, or whatever caused your injury. However, in rare cases where you could not have reasonably discovered your injuries until later, the two-year limit might start running from the "discovery date" of the injuries.
For injury claims against a state government agency, you have two years to file formal claim. See: Injury Claims Against The Government
Comparative Fault in Iowa
Iowa has its own rules for deciding cases in which an injured person is found to be partly at fault for the underlying accident. If you are found to share fault in a legal sense, Iowa's comparative fault rule may work to reduce or eliminate the damages (the amount of money) you can receive.
Here's an example. Suppose you suffer injuries when another driver runs a red light and hits your car. When you were hit, you were driving a few miles per hour over the posted speed limit. In your case, the court decides that you were 10 percent at fault in the accident, and the other driver was 90 percent at fault. Your total damages -- medical bills, lost wages, and all other losses from the accident -- are calculated at $10,000.
Iowa's comparative fault rule would likely reduce your damages by $1,000, or 10 percent of the total, since 10 percent equals the amount of fault assigned to you. Therefore, you can receive $9,000 from the other at-fault driver. As long as your fault stays under 50 percent, in Iowa you will be able to recover some damages from other at-fault parties. But if you are found to be 50 percent or more at fault, the court will bar you from collecting anything at all.
Keep in mind that Iowa courts are required to apply the comparative fault rule whenever an injured person shares some of the fault, and adjust any damage award accordingly. However, insurance adjusters often bring up the comparative fault issue during settlement negotiations as well. It's wise to be prepared.
Iowa Auto Insurance Laws
Iowa is a "fault" or "at-fault" state for auto insurance purposes. "Fault" states provide people injured in car accidents with multiple options. You may decide to file a case in court to prove fault and seek damages. Or you may decide to file an insurance claim, either with your own auto insurer or with the other driver's insurer directly.
"Strict" Liability for Dog Bite/Attack Cases
In many states, dog owners are protected (to some degree) from injury liability the first time their dog injures someone if they had no reason to believe the dog was dangerous. This is often called a "one bite" rule. In Iowa however, a specific statute (Iowa Code Ann. § 351.28) makes the owner "strictly liable", meaning regardless of the animal's past behavior, the dog owner is responsible for a personal injury caused by his/her dog. Specifically, the statute reads:
“The owner of a dog shall be liable to an injured party for all damages done by the dog, when” “the dog is attacking or attempting to bite a person, except when the party damaged is doing an unlawful act, directly contributing to the injury.”
Damage Caps in Iowa Injury Cases
Damages in a personal injury case are limited by law in some states. A few states cap non-economic or "pain and suffering" damages, and some states cap damages only in certain types of cases, like medical malpractice.
Currently, Iowa does not cap either economic or non-economic damages in any type of injury case. The decision of how much in damages to award an injured plaintiff is typically made by a jury in an injury lawsuit, and is a core point of negotiations in injury settlement talks.