Statute of Limitations on Personal Injury Claims
California citizens suffer injuries from all kinds of accidents involving negligence every single day. According to the California Highway Patrol, California saw 226,028 people injured in car accidents in 2022 alone. If you have been injured in an accident that was caused by someone else’s negligence, you may be able to file a personal injury claim.
If you find yourself in this situation, it’s important to remember the rules surrounding personal injury claims—including the statute of limitations for filing them.
Have you been hurt in an accident in California and may be interested in bringing a personal injury claim against the other party? Reach out to our attorneys at G. Aldrich Law in Lakeport and Woodland Hills, California.
Statute of Limitations for Personal Injuries in California
If you have been seriously injured due to someone else’s negligence, insurance might not cover all of your damages. In this case, you may be able to file a civil lawsuit against the other party. In order for a personal injury claim to be successful, you will have to prove that the person owed you a duty of care, they breached that duty of care, and you were injured because of that negligence. An attorney can help you to gather evidence to support your claim. However, you must remember that a statute of limitations applies to personal injury claims.
The “statute of limitations” refers to the amount of time you have following your injury to make a personal injury claim against the other party. If you wait until after that deadline, your claim is likely to be dismissed altogether. These time limits differ by state, and some states’ statutes of limitations even differ depending on the type of injury. For example, Colorado usually imposes a two-year statute of limitations on personal injury claims, but if you’ve been in a car accident, you can file a claim for three years after your injury.
The statute of limitations for personal injury claims in California is two years. This means that you can file a lawsuit against the other party to seek compensation for your injuries for two years following the date of the accident.
Keep in mind that if you are suing a city, county, or the California government, you only have six months from the date of the accident to file a claim.
I’ve Missed the Filing Deadline. Now What?
Unfortunately, your claim is likely to be dismissed if you’ve missed the filing deadline. The statute of limitations is there to ensure that evidence is gathered and presented in a timely manner and that fraudulent or bad-faith claims have less chance of making it to court.
There are exceptions to the statute of limitations, however. You may be able to extend the deadline if you or the defendant (person being sued) were under 18 when you were injured or if the defendant left California before you had a chance to file the lawsuit. This is because, in these cases, the statute of limitations “clock” is stopped for a time (for example, until the plaintiff turns 18 if they were a minor when the injury happened). This “stopping of the clock” is called “tolling.” You should consult a skilled attorney in any case that involves tolling.
You may also be able to invoke the “discovery rule” to extend the filing deadline. If you did not realize you were injured until a significant time had passed after the accident, you may be able to ask the court to start the “clock” at the time when you become aware of your injuries, even if the statute of limitations had expired at that point. You will need an attorney to help you gather evidence (such as medical records) to prove that a person with your injuries might reasonably not have realized that they were hurt or realized the extent of the injuries until later, and present that evidence convincingly to the court.
Ultimately, it is essential that you speak to a personal injury attorney after an accident, even if you do not think you are seriously hurt. Personal injury attorneys have most likely seen many cases involving your type of accident and injury, and they will be able to guide you in the right direction and help you gather evidence.
Turn to Compassionate Legal Assistance
No one should have to navigate the legal system alone, especially in the aftermath of an injury. If you’ve been injured in an accident in California and need help proving negligence, call us at G. Aldrich Law, with offices in Woodland Hills and Lakeport and serving other parts of Los Angeles and Lake Counties as well as Colusa County, Riverside County, and surrounding areas in Northern and Southern California. Our attorneys pride themselves on one-on-one client engagement and passion for helping every single client move forward.