If you are injured an accident in California you may be entitled to recover compensation from the at-fault party(ies). However, it is important to seek the advice and counsel of an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible after your accident because California imposes a statute of limitations on personal injury claims.
After your accident, the amount of time you have to file a claim is limited. An experienced personal injury attorney will ensure that claims for personal injury damages are filed within the permitted window of time.
What Should I Do After an Accident?
An accident can be an incredibly challenging life event. The days, weeks, and months following an accident are often burdened with unforeseen costs, a painful recovery, and difficult emotions. If you are injured in an accident you should – at the very least – ensure you do each of the following steps.
- Seek medical assistance. Not all injuries are visible immediately after an accident. A physician or medical professional can ensure that there are no immediate threats to your health and/or diagnose internal injuries.
- Call the police. An accident or police report can be vital to a successful claim for personal injury damages. The report will capture information and details about the accident that may fade with time.
- Contact an attorney. In some cases, a personal injury lawsuit to recover damages may not be the first thought to cross your mind. However, waiting too long to file a claim can mean you’re barred from recovering anything. Contacting an attorney can help you understand the personal injury claim process and get the ball rolling.
Limited Period of Time to File a Personal Injury Claim
Time is of the essence after you’ve been in an accident. In California, the statute of limitations is the period of time when a lawsuit for personal injury damages may be filed. In most cases, the statute of limitations clock begins to run as soon as the injury-causing accident occurs. There are exceptions to this rule, but are generally limited to very specific situations. Once the California statute of limitation “runs” you will be prohibited from filing a claim to recover compensation for your injuries.
Statute of Limitations Depends on the Injury
The California statute of limitations that is applicable to your case will depend on the type of injury you sustain. The most common type of personal injury claim is based on the personal injury of a person. This covers injuries such as assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence, and wrongful death. The statute of limitations is two years from the date of the accident or two years from when an injury manifests.
The California statute of limitations for other injuries include:
- Injury to Personal Property – claims must be brought within three years of the date of the injury. Injuries to personal property include theft, fraud, trespassing, nuisance, or physical damage to property.
- Injury from Medical Malpractice – claims must be brought within 3 years of the injury-causing incident or one year from the discovery of the malpractice.
- Injury from Legal Malpractice – claims must be brought within 4 years of the injury-causing incident or one year from the discovery of the malpractice.
Claims Against the Government
If a government entity is responsible for a personal injury the rules concerning the statute of limitations are slightly different. In California, injured parties must file an administrative claim with the appropriate governmental office within 6 months of the accident. If you do not file this administrative claim within the permitted window you will be barred from recovering compensation from the government. The government has 45 days to respond to the administrative claim. Many times, the government will reject the claim for damages. You then have 6 months from the date of the denial to file a civil personal injury claim in court. If the government does not respond to your administrative claim within those 45 days you are entitled to the full two-year statute of limitations.
Special Circumstances and Tolling the Statute of Limitations
As discussed earlier, the statute of limitations generally begins to run (1) when an injury-causing accident occurs or (2) when an injury manifests. There are, however, special circumstances that will cause the statute of limitations to toll. Basically, when a statute of limitations is tolled it is paused until a certain event occurs. When this event occurs, the statute of limitation resumes, picking up where it left off.
In California, the statute of limitations may be tolled when:
- The plaintiff is a minor when the accident and/or injury occurs;
- The defendant is out of the state or in prison; or
- The defendant is mentally incapacitated, insane, or otherwise unfit to stand trial.
For example, if you are 15 years old and involved in an accident, you will have two years from the time you turn 18 to file a personal injury lawsuit for damages. The statute of limitations is tolled for three years until you reach the legal age.
Experienced California Personal Injury Attorneys
If you have been injured in a California accident you should contact an experienced personal injury attorney to learn about your legal rights and options. Injuries may not manifest themselves immediately, so even if you do not think you were injured it is important to consult a physician. An experienced injury attorney will walk you through the personal injury claims process and explain the statute of limitations that is applicable to your case.
Injury Trial Lawyers, APC