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car accident statute of limitations California

Statute of limitations for car accidents in california


When to file a claim so you don’t miss your chance for compensation

When involved in a vehicle accident, it’s not uncommon to feel overwhelmed by stress and fear. In many cases, you may be dealing with physical injuries that make it impossible to take legal action immediately.

Even so, there are time limits that apply to filing lawsuits involving motor vehicle accidents in California. These time limits are known as statutes of limitations. These statutes refer to specific time limits in which you must file a lawsuit before you lose eligibility to take legal action.

What is the car accident statute of limitations in California?

According to the California Code of Civil Procedure, there is a 2-year deadline for when you must take legal action for any injury caused to one individual by the negligent or wrongful act of another person.

Under this car accident statute of limitations, California residents must ensure they make a claim for any type of damages they’ve suffered in a vehicle accident within the required time frame or risk losing the right to do so forever. The 2-year deadline begins on the date of the accident.

Why is there a statute of limitations for car accident claims in California?

The reason why there is a 2-year time limit for filing a claim regarding car accidents in California is to ensure relevant evidence is preserved. The ability to accurately determine fault in motor vehicle accidents is reliant upon reliable witness statements and physical evidence. Over time, the memory of witnesses can fade, and physical evidence can degrade over time. A 2-year time limit helps to ensure fairness to all parties involved.

Special rules for car accidents involving government employees

In the event you’re involved in a motor accident that is caused by the negligence of a government employee, there are special rules that apply. For instance, in this type of circumstance, you must provide notice that you are filing a claim regarding the accident within 6 months of the accident date. This time frame is intended to provide the government entity involved in the case with the opportunity to respond to your claim.

In the event your claim is denied, you then have 6 months in which to file a lawsuit. It should be noted that lawsuits involving government entities can be particularly difficult to navigate. For this reason, it is important to seek legal representation as soon as possible if you are involved in a motor vehicle accident involving a government entity.

Statute of limitations exceptions in California

In some circumstances, there may be exceptions to these California car accident statutes of limitations. Below are some of the situations that may qualify for an exception:

    • Wrongful death. The statute of limitations in a wrongful death suit begins on the date the deceased died, even if the individual passed away weeks or months after the accident that caused their injuries.


    • Damaged property. The statute of limitations is extended to 3 years in cases involving repairs for damages sustained to property or vehicles, according to California Code for Civil Procedure, section 338.


    • Defendants are not available. The statute of limitations may be extended in situations in which the dependent is deemed incapacitated or is in prison.


    • Mental incapacitation. The timeframe for filing a lawsuit may be extended in the event that the victim in the case lacks mental capabilities. For instance, if the victim sustained serious injuries that left that person mentally incapacitated, the statute of limitations may be extended.


  • Injuries involving minors. When a child under the age of 18 is involved in a motor vehicle accident, the time limit for filing a lawsuit does not begin until the minor turns 18.

What happens if you miss the filing deadline?

In the event that the filing deadline in your case has passed, you typically lose the ability to receive compensation for property damage or injuries unless your case meets 1 of the above exceptions. For this reason, it’s imperative that you consult an attorney experienced in handling motor vehicle accidents in California.

When should you file a personal injury claim?

In many instances, filing a claim as soon as possible may not be the best course of action. While you should definitely make sure that you file a claim within the required statute of limitations, it’s also a good idea to ensure you have a full understanding of issues such as what future medical treatments you may require. Your attorney can advise you on the optimal time to file a personal injury lawsuit to receive maximum compensation.

What if you don’t have insurance?

Many people may feel uncomfortable filing a claim if they don’t have car insurance. Even so, if you sustained property damage or a serious injury in a vehicle accident, you still have the right to file a claim if you were not at fault in the accident.

When to contact an attorney to help with your personal injury claim

If you’ve experienced serious injuries that prevent you from completing your normal day-to-day activities or you have significant property damage after your accident, it may be a good idea to consult an experienced personal injury attorney.

Consulting with an attorney can help ensure your rights are protected, claims are filed within the required time period, and you receive fair compensation for your losses. To file a legal claim, your attorney will want to collect any available evidence, including police reports, witness statements, medical records, medical bills and any photos that would prove property damage claims, so be sure to bring those with you to your initial consultation, if those items are available.

If you've been injured in an accident in California or Texas, contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at MVP Accident Attorneys. Our firm specializes in personal injury law, and our attorneys have recovered millions of dollars for our thousands of satisfied clients over the years.

We never charge you a fee unless we win your case, so contact us today for your free, no-obligation consultation to see how we can help you get the compensation you deserve.


brett sachs2
Brett Sachs

Brett S. Sachs graduated from Michigan State University College of Law with Cum Laude Honors. While attending Michigan State, Brett was awarded for his service in the Michigan State University College of Law Civil Rights Clinic, where he represented prisoners of the Michigan Department of Corrections from injustices brought upon them. Learn more.

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