Statute of Limitations
TIME LIMITS TO FILE A
PERSONAL INJURY, WRONGFUL DEATH OR PROPERTY DAMAGE LAWSUIT
In a personal injury claim, the “Statute of Limitations” sets the time limit or deadline within which the injured party, claimant, or plaintiff can file a lawsuit. If a lawsuit is not filed prior to the expiration date of the Statute of Limitations, the injured party, claimant, or plaintiff is barred from filing the lawsuit, pursuing the claim, and loses the legal right to recover damages. It is important to read this page in its entirety, including the Frequently Asked Questions sections.
Common California Statute of Limitations in Personal Injury Claims are as follows:
The Code of Civil Procedure prescribes the Statute of Limitations for all civil actions. Please check California Code of Civil Procedure sections 312-366 if your case is different from those listed above. You should also speak with an attorney to determine the statute of limitations in your specific case.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
When does the Statute of Limitations begin to run in a claim or case?
The Statute of Limitations in a California personal injury case generally begins to run when the injury occurs. In personal injury claims, this is typically the date the accident or incident occurred or the date the injury is suffered. For example, the date of the car accident, slip and fall or dog bite.
What if my Personal Injury claim involves a Minor?
If the injured person was under the age of 18 at the time of the accident or incident, the time limit does not start to run until the child reaches the age of 18. Typically, a minor with a civil action in a personal injury claim has until the age of 20 to file a lawsuit, otherwise the claim is barred pursuant to the Statute of Limitations.
What if my Personal Injury claim is against a Government (State, County, or City) agency or entity?
When you have a claim against a government agency or entity, you must first file a “claim form” or “administrative form” specific to the government agency or entity you intend on suing before you file the lawsuit. Every government agency or entity has their own specific claim form you must use.
For personal injury and property damage claims, you must file the correct claim form within 6 months of the accident, incident, personal injury, wrongful death, or property damage. This 6 month period also applies to minors.
Once the Government agency or entity receives the notice, they have 45 days to respond to the claim. If the claim is denied within the 45 days, then you typically only have 6 months from the denial to file a lawsuit. If claim is not denied and you do not receive a rejection letter within 45 days, you have up to 2 years from the date of the underlying accident or incident to file a lawsuit. If you do not receive the rejection notice within 45 days, it is prudent to contact the government agency or entity you filed the claim form with to make sure the rejection letter was not lost in the mail.
The statute of limitations for government claims is complicated to calculate and requires the assistance of an attorney experienced with filing claims and lawsuits against a government agency or entity. It is especially important to immediately speak to an attorney if you have missed any deadline to determine if there is an exception or if you can file a late claim.
What if I miss the deadline to file a lawsuit?
If a lawsuit is filed after the statute of limitations, unless an exception applies, you are barred from pursuing your claim and recovering damages. By failing to file a lawsuit prior to the expiration date, an injured party, claimant, or plaintiff will lose their right to file the lawsuit and recover damages. If the lawsuit is filed after the expiration date, the court will dismiss the case for failing to file prior to the expiration date. If the statute of limitations in your case has expired, it is imperative that you immediately contact an experienced personal injury attorney to determine if the statute of limitations was tolled for any reason or if an exception exists that allows you to file after the statute of limitations expiration date.
Is the Statute of Limitations ever “tolled” in personal injury cases?
Yes, in very limited and specific circumstances the Statute of Limitations is tolled or does not begin to run for a specified period of time. There are very specific and limited circumstances that will toll a Statute of Limitations and requires the assistance of an attorney experienced with Statute of Limitations. If the statute of limitations on your case has expired, it is especially important to contact a personal injury attorney to determine whether you can still file a lawsuit and pursue your claim for damages.
Are these all of the Statute of Limitations in California?
No! This page is only a summary of the California Statute of Limitations related to personal injury, wrongful death, product liability, and property damage cases. As soon as possible you must contact an experienced personal injury attorney to advise you regarding the applicable deadlines to file a lawsuit in your specific case.
Where can I learn more about Statute of Limitations relating to California personal injury and wrongful death claims?
The following links provide additional information regarding certain Statute of Limitations on our website. However, as you can see, the Statute of limitations in California are complex. Therefore, it is best practice to immediately contact an experienced personal injury attorney to assist you with determining the expiration date to file a lawsuit in your specific case. This is especially important if the above stated Statute of Limitations have already expired. A personal injury attorney can investigate the facts of your case to determine the correct date that your Statute of Limitations will expire.