If you have been involved in a car accident, it is not always possible to take legal action immediately. Car accidents are usually overwhelming as they bring about different emotions, including anxiety, stress, and fear.
However, there is a time limit for filing car accident lawsuits and other civil actions. Call The JLF Firm in Southern California and let an experienced car accident attorney handle your case in a timely and professional manner.
What is the Statute of Limitations for?
Generally, a statute of limitations refers to the timeframe of bringing legal action. It is the deadline for which lawsuits must be filed in court. Once the time limit defined by the statute of limitations for a specific crime expires, you can no longer initiate legal action.
Different legal disputes have varying statutes of limitations based on the state. However, some more serious crimes, like murder, often do not have a statute of limitations. Likewise, the statute of limitations in California can be tolled or extended for several reasons, but we shall discuss this later in the section below.
Nonetheless, courts usually uphold statutes of limitations to prevent lengthy backlogs of old cases and delay justice for victims. If you are wondering what the statute of limitations for a specific legal claim is, consult an experienced attorney to assist you in navigating your legal situation.
What is the Statute of Limitations on Car Accidents in California?
Anyone involved in a car accident can claim damages from the relevant parties. These damages can be financial or physical, depending on the nature of the case. The statute of limitations for car accidents in California is two years from when the accident occurred, as highlighted under Section 335.1 in the California Code of Civil Procedure.
This time limit is tolled for minors until they reach the legal age of 18 years. Once the two-year time limit lapses, injured parties to a car accident cannot file lawsuits related to this case.
However, there are several exceptions to the statute of limitations for car accidents, including if the injured parties do not have the adequate mental capacity to bring legal action.
The two-year time limit under the car accident statute of limitations in California seeks to ensure the preservation of relevant evidence. The most vital factors in determining faults in car accidents are the accuracy of physical evidence and the dependability of witnesses’ memories.
As more time goes by, the less trustworthy the information becomes. Since physical evidence can be lost and memories fade and become less reliable, California has placed a two-year time limit.
Exceptions to the Car Accident Statute of Limitations in California
As mentioned earlier, the statute of limitations in California has several exceptions. Legally, these exceptions are referred to as tolling, meaning several instances can delay the implementation of the statute of limitations in a court of law. They include:
- Wrongful death: If an individual is involved in a car accident and passes away sometime after the occurrence of the car accident, the resulting lawsuit starts from the date they are pronounced deceased.
- Property damage: If you are seeking compensation for damaged property resulting from a car accident, the California Code of Civil Procedure under section 338 provides that the statute of limitations for property losses is three years.
- Injuries involving minors: If a child under 18 years is involved in a car accident, the two-year time limit under the statute of limitations begins once the minor attains the age of majority.
- Impaired judgment: If the person involved in an accident is mentally incapacitated or rendered unconscious, perhaps due to the injuries sustained, the statute of limitations for car accidents is tolled.
- Claims involving government entities: If you are filing a personal injury case against a government entity, the time limit is six months. If the entity denies the claim, you have a one-year time limit to bring legal action against them.
- If the defendant is unavailable: If the individual you are filing a claim against is in prison, out of state, or declared mentally impaired, the statute of limitations can be tolled.
- The defendant files for bankruptcy: If you bring action against an individual who has filed for bankruptcy, the court automatically stays any action to recover damages from that individual. Upon the conclusion of bankruptcy proceedings, your claim against the individual will be discharged.
What If You File an Accident Lawsuit After the Time Limit Lapses?
If you file a car accident claim after the lapse of the car accident statute of limitations in California, the court is likely to dismiss the case. This means that you will not receive any compensation for property losses or personal injury unless you fall under any of the exclusive exceptions listed above.
If you are unsure whether you can file a lawsuit after the statute of limitations deadline, consult a professional personal injury lawyer for more information on the appropriate time to file a claim. Our team of knowledgeable lawyers is ready to help you with prompt claim preparation and any information you may need on the statute of limitations in California.
Request a Free Consultation for Your Car Accident Case in California
Generally, the car accident statute of limitations in California is two years. But, the best way to know the course of action for your car accident case is to consult a skilled personal injury attorney.
At The JLF Firm, our team of qualified legal professionals will assess your case and recommend the best time to file a lawsuit. We have numerous years of experience and expertise in representing clients like you who were injured in a car accident. In fact, we have a proven track record of obtaining favorable jury verdicts on behalf of our clients. Contact us today to book a free consultation for your car accident case.
FAQs on the Statute of Limitations for a Car Accident
Do car accident cases have to be completed within the statute of limitations?
No, the statute of limitations only applied to the filing of cases. Personal injury cases can take three months or even several years to settle.
What damages are available for car accident injury cases?
Under California car accident laws, persons involved in a car accident caused by negligent parties have a right to claim damages. These include pain and suffering, out-of-pocket costs, medical fees, emotional distress, lost wages, inability to work, loss of employment, and many more.