California personal injury statute of limitations
How long do you have to file a personal injury lawsuit?
The term "statute of limitations" refers to the length of time an individual has to file a lawsuit. In California, the statute of limitations to file a personal injury claim is typically 2 years. California’s 2-year deadline is similar to that of most other states across the U.S.
If a lawsuit is not filed within that designated period of time, the court is likely to dismiss the claim. However, there are some instances in which the time you have to file a personal injury claim may be extended.
Exceptions to California’s 2-year statute of limitations
In most instances, a personal injury lawsuit in California must be filed within 2 years, and the clock begins ticking on the date of your injury. There are some exceptions to this 2-year deadline, which we will outline below. They include:
- Lawsuits against a government agency must be filed within 6 months of the injury.
- Defamation lawsuits (in which someone makes a false statement that harms your reputation) must be filed within 1 year of the injury.
- Medical malpractice lawsuits must be filed within 3 years of the injury or 1 year after the injury was discovered.
- Veterinary malpractice lawsuits must be filed within 1 year of the injury.
- Asbestos exposure lawsuits must be filed within 1 year of the discovery of the injury.
- Legal malpractice suits must be filed within 1 year after the plaintiff discovered the wrongdoing but no more than 4 years from the original date of legal action.
- Property damage lawsuits must be filed within 3 years of the injury.
It’s always best to seek the legal guidance of an experienced personal injury lawyer if you’re unsure about the statute of limitations in your case so you don’t miss your chance at compensation.
What happens when suing a government entity?
Although it is entirely possible to file a lawsuit against a government entity in California, there are some differences in how the case proceeds.
The 1st step is to file something known as an administrative claim. This must be completed before you are permitted to file a personal injury lawsuit. The administrative claim must be filed within 6 months of the injury.
Once the administrative claim is filed, the government entity must respond within 45 days. If your claim is denied, you have 6 months to file a lawsuit after the claim is denied. If the government entity doesn’t respond, you have 2 years from the date of your injury to file a lawsuit.
Can the statute of limitations be extended?
Although, in most cases, you’ll lose your opportunity to be compensated if you fail to file a personal injury lawsuit within the designated time frame, there are some exceptions to this rule.
A term commonly used when it comes to the statute of limitations in personal injury cases is "tolling," which means to delay. Tolling may be applicable in cases where a plaintiff is unable to file a lawsuit such as:
- Plaintiff is under 18 years old. If the plaintiff is injured before they turn 18, the statute of limitations doesn’t begin until their 18th birthday. If they were injured before birth (e.g., in a birth injury lawsuit), the statute of limitations is 6 years after the child was born.
- Plaintiff is declared mentally incompetent. If the plaintiff is declared mentally incompetent at the time the defendant’s actions caused the injury, the statute of limitations doesn’t start until the plaintiff is declared mentally competent.
- Plaintiff dies before the statute of limitations ends. If the plaintiff dies within 6 months before the statute of limitations ends, a representative of the deceased can file a lawsuit within 6 months of their death.
- Plaintiff is in prison. If the plaintiff is imprisoned, the statute of limitations is delayed for 2 years or until they’re released (whichever is sooner).
- Plaintiff is on active military duty. The statute of limitations is delayed during the time a plaintiff is in the military.
- Defendant is out of the state. If a defendant leaves the state or cannot be located, the statute of limitations may be delayed until the defendant returns or can be found.
What is the statute of repose?
It should be noted that the statute of limitations for personal injury cases in California is not the same as the statute of repose. The statute of repose applies to claims related to construction defects.
This type of claim must be made within 10 years of the project’s substantial completion. While the statute of repose doesn’t place any limits regarding personal injuries, it does apply to indemnity claims against other parties.
When to contact a California personal injury attorney
Navigating a personal injury claim in California can be complex. Even though you typically have 2 years to file a personal injury lawsuit, you don’t want to wait until the last minute to begin the process because you may not be able to complete the necessary paperwork before the statute of limitations expires, and your case could get dismissed.
It’s always best to contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible after an accident to ensure you don’t miss your chance to be compensated.
If you’ve been injured in an accident in California or Texas, the experienced personal injury attorneys at MVP Accident Attorneys are here to help. Our firm has recovered millions of dollars for our clients across California and Texas, and we'd love to devise an individualized plan for you too.
Contact us today for your free, no-obligation consultation. There’s never a fee unless we win your case.
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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