Personal Injury Statute of Limitations California

California limits the amount of time an accident victim can file a lawsuit for damages. It’s important to know which statute of limitations applies to your case. Missing the deadline to file will prevent a financial recovery.

If you’ve been injured because of a defective product or due to another person’s negligence, you’ll have a limited time to file a personal injury lawsuit in the state of California.

If you miss the deadline that applies to your case – as set by the statute of limitations – you’ll lose the right to file a civil claim and demand compensation.

California has a few different statutes of limitations that can apply to personal injury cases. So, it’ll be important to identify the timeframe that will be applicable in your case.

Here’s what you need to know.

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    Why Is There a Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Lawsuit in California?

    Before diving into what the specific statutes of limitations are, it’s good to understand why they exist.

    Statutes of limitations exist in both criminal and civil matters. Just like the state only has a limited amount of time to charge you with a crime, you’ll only have a limited time to formally accuse someone else of causing you to get hurt.

    Essentially, these limitations are in place to ensure that claims are filed within a reasonable period of time.

    Time can be critical in personal injury cases. The more time that goes by, the less reliable evidence becomes. Physical evidence can be lost, destroyed, or damaged. Witness memories begin to fade and change almost immediately after witnessing an accident.

    At the same time, the state also wants to encourage the timely resolution of disputes. If you were in a car accident in Sacramento a decade ago, it might be difficult to find the at-fault driver today. At the same time, it may not be reasonable to ask them to demand that they accept responsibility for something that happened 10 years ago when you had the ability to take action shortly after the wreck.

    How Long Will I Have to File a Personal Injury Lawsuit in California?

    California has a two-year statute of limitations that applies to the vast majority of personal injury lawsuits.

    This includes cases involving:

    • Car accidents
    • Truck accidents
    • Motorcycle accidents
    • Bicycle accidents
    • Pedestrian accidents
    • Uber & Lyft accidents
    • Slip and fall accidents
    • Dog bites and animal attacks
    • Premises liability matters
    • Defective medical products and product liability
    • Construction accidents
    • Workplace accidents
    • Nursing home abuse
    • Boating accidents
    • Wrongful death

    So, you’ll typically have two years from the date you’re injured or a family member dies to file a personal injury lawsuit against a negligent or strictly liable party. However, some exceptions apply: 

    Property Damage

    three-year time limit will apply to personal injury cases involving property damage only.

    Medical Malpractice

    The statute of limitations in medical malpractice cases is one year from the date you know (or should have known) about the injury or three years from the date of injury, whichever is earlier.

    You may have more or less time than usual to file a medical malpractice lawsuit, depending on when you discover your injury.

    Government Claims

    Sometimes there may be situations when a government agency is responsible or shares liability for an injury. Claims in these cases are subject to an accelerated timeframe.

    Under California law, you’ll have 6 months to file an administrative claim directly with the government agency you’re accusing of negligence.

    If your claim is denied, then you’ll have two years from the date of your injury to file a civil lawsuit in court.

    Workers' Compensation for Benefits

    Workers’ compensation is technically a claim for insurance benefits, so California’s typical two-year clock won’t apply.

    Instead, you’ll have to notify your employer of your accident and injury within 30 days to preserve your right to legal action.

    Then you’ll have one year from the date of your injury to formally file a claim to receive workers’ compensation benefits.

    Sexual Assault

    If you’re an adult who has been the victim of sexual assault on or after January 1, 2019, you’ll have:

    • 3 years from the date you discover you’ve been injured
    • 10 years from the date of the last act of violence to file a lawsuit
    If you were a child when you were the victim of sexual assault, the statute of limitations is even more generous.

    Childhood sexual assault survivors have until:

    • They’re 40 years old
    • Within five years of discovering a relationship between the sexual assault and a psychological injury or illness
    If you were the victim of sexual assault decades ago and are just now making the connection between the assault and significant trauma, you may have the right to file a lawsuit for damages.

    Birth Injury

    Children who suffer birth injuries due to medical negligence will have until they are 8 years old to file a claim.

    Can the Statute of Limitations in California Ever Be Extended?

    Yes, there are times when the statute of limitations can be longer than is stated under the law.

    This is typically the case when:

    • An injury isn’t discovered right away, despite reasonable efforts
    • An accident victim is a minor
    • The defendant in a personal injury case leaves the state, is imprisoned, or is otherwise unavailable

    These are called “tolling factors” and cause the statute of limitations to be put on hold. The clock is paused until the factor is no longer an issue.

    For instance, in cases involving minors, the statute of limitations is typically tolled until the child turns 18. When they’re 18, they legally have the capacity to file a lawsuit on their own behalf. So, the applicable statute of limitations begins to run, usually giving them until they’re 20 to file a claim.

    Discovery Rule

    One of the reasons the statute of limitations can be tolled is if an injury or illness isn’t discovered right away. Under California’s discovery rule, the deadline can be extended until the injury is identified. Once discovered, victims will have one year to file a lawsuit against at-fault parties.

    Don’t Miss the Deadline That Applies to Your Personal Injury Case

    If you were recently hurt in an accident in Oakland, Sacramento, Santa Rosa, or elsewhere in California, it’s important to take prompt action. Absent any extenuating circumstances, the statute of limitations that applies to your case will begin to run immediately.

    You will lose the right to recover compensation if you don’t file your claim before time runs out.

    The best way to protect your legal rights and ensure you satisfy all procedural requirements is by hiring an experienced California personal injury lawyer. Contact Cutter Law P.C. to discover why our award-winning litigators are the ones you’ll want handling your personal injury case.

    We offer a free consultation and are available to take your call today.


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