What is the Time Limit to File a Personal Injury Lawsuit in California?

california statute of limitations personal injury

If you’ve been injured due to someone else’s negligence in California, you may be considering a personal injury lawsuit to recover damages. However, you can’t afford to wait forever to take legal action.

There are strict time limits set by California law that determine how long you have to file a claim after an accident or injury. Miss the deadline, and you may lose your right to compensation entirely.

So, what exactly is the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit in the Golden State? In most cases, you have two years from the date of injury to get your case on record. There are a few exceptions that extend the window to file beyond two years, such as injuries to minors.

But for standard accidents causing harm due to another party’s provable negligence, that two-year mark applies. Connect with an experienced California personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after any incident to ensure you get your claim filed on time and start building your case while the evidence is fresh.

California’s Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury

California Code of Civil Procedure §335.1 allows personal injury victims just two years from the date of injury to file lawsuits against provably negligent parties that caused harm, applying to most accidents, including:

California’s rigid two-year statute understandably intimidates injured parties still struggling after accidents. However, rather than allowing these individuals to be taken advantage of by insurance companies seeking quick payouts, compassionate personal injury attorneys become legal advocates who level the playing field and obtain rightful compensation.

California’s “Date of Discovery” Rule

The timeline to file a personal injury claim doesn’t necessarily start ticking the day your accident happened. The date of injury, in many cases, is considered the first day you discovered (or reasonably should have discovered) that someone else’s wrongdoing caused the harm suffered.

For example, if you start having serious complications from surgery six months later, you may not have known right away that medical malpractice led to your suffering. The Date of Discovery Rule gives you two years from the time you link the malpractice to your injury to take legal action, not merely from the date under the knife.

The rule can provide more time in situations where injuries don’t manifest immediately or the negligent cause is unclear. But you still want to move quickly to investigate with a California personal injury lawyer once you suspect wrongful harm.

Are There Exceptions to the 2-Year Statute?

We’ve stressed California’s strict 2-year timeline to file injury lawsuits. But there are certain exceptions, legally called “tolling,” that pause the clock. When is the statute of limitations delayed?

  • If the plaintiff is a minor under 18 years old
  • If the plaintiff is legally deemed mentally incompetent
  • If the plaintiff dies within six months of the limitation expire
  • If the plaintiff is in prison until release or two years is up
  • If the plaintiff is actively serving in the military

In these special circumstances, injured parties may have more than two years to file claims. The law grants delays since the plaintiff can’t reasonably take legal action from their disadvantaged position temporarily. While extra accommodating, don’t wait to connect with a personal injury lawyer!

Why Meeting the Statute of Limitations Matters

We know the statute of limitations seems annoying when you’ve been injured. You’re coping physically and financially, maybe still figuring out what happened, and now there’s a deadline to file a lawsuit? What gives?

There are some decent reasons these time limits get put into place by the courts:

  • Keeping Evidence Reliable. Witness memories, documents, investigation details – it all gets fuzzy over time. Courts want cases tried on intact information.
  • Promoting Swift Resolution. It can drag on indefinitely for defendants, too, if cases from 5 years ago can suddenly get filed out of the blue. Statutes incentivize wrapping up legal loose ends.
  • Lighting a Fire Under Plaintiffs. As much as an injury turns your life upside down, the law wants to motivate people to actively pursue cases sooner rather than later.
  • Dodging Denied Coverage Tactics. We hate to say it, but insurance companies will try tactics to deny or downgrade legitimate injury claims. Time limits give them a convenient excuse to say you “waited too long.” Don’t let ’em get away with it.

Statutes ultimately aim to balance the interests of both injured plaintiffs seeking fair justice and defendants seeking swift resolution. Don’t let the clock intimidate you from promptly calling an excellent personal injury lawyer.

Engage a Personal Injury Lawyer that Understands California Law

With decades of experience in the California justice system and navigating the California statute of limitations, D’Egidio & Pedroza have won millions of dollars in compensation for clients. We work on contingency, requiring no upfront fees or recovery payments unless we obtain your compensation through settlements or court judgments.

Don’t leave financial futures hanging by a thread – praying insurance firms volunteer fair reimbursement. Call D’Egidio & Pedroza today for a FREE case review and let a dedicated personal injury attorney get the justice you deserve with compensation to match.

Author Bio

Arthur Paul D’Egidio is the Managing Partner of DP Injury Attorneys, a San Diego personal injury law firm. With more than 12 years of experience in California injury law, he has dedicated his practice to representing clients in a wide range of personal injury matters, including car accidents, workers’ compensation, slip and falls, catastrophic injury, and wrongful death cases.

Arthur received his Juris Doctor from the Thomas Jefferson School of Law and is a member of the State Bar of California as well as the San Diego County Bar Association. He has received numerous accolades for his work, including being named a Super Lawyer for seven straight years by Thomson Reuters and a “Top 40 Under 40” by the National Trial Lawyers.

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