Personal Injury Statute of Limitations in California

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During the fiscal year of 2022, California courts reviewed 971 civil cases, many of which were personal injury cases. Have you been injured in an accident that was the result of negligence on the part of someone other than yourself? You may have a personal injury case with which The JLF Firm can help. You first need to understand the personal injury statute of limitations in California and how it can impact your case.

What Is the Personal Injury Statute of Limitations in California?

For most cases, the statute of limitations in California is two years. Incidents that fall under this two-year limit include:

  • Motor vehicle, bicycle, pedestrian, boating, and ride-share accidents
  • Slip and fall incidents
  • Dog bites
  • Premises liability
  • Workplace and construction incidents
  • Wrongful death
  • Defective medical or related products

If you have a personal injury claim against a government entity, the process is significantly different. The personal injury statute of limitations in California differs based on the government’s response.

For cases involving workers’ compensation, you must notify your employer within 30 days or less. You then need to file your worker’s compensation claim within a year of the date of your injury.

Why Does California Have a Statute of Limitations?

You may wonder why California has any statute of limitations on civil cases. The goal is to ensure you file your claim and lawsuit within a reasonable timeframe. This comes down to these questions: How long does a reasonable person need to file the lawsuit? How long should a person need to understand the extent of their injury and necessary treatment?

Filing quickly reduces the challenges you may face in proving your case. Evidence can degrade or become unreliable as time goes on or witnesses may forget important aspects of the incident that caused your injury. If you have other physical evidence, it can become damaged, misplaced, or ruined. In addition, defendants may leave the state. For its part, the State of California wants these issues settled or resolved quickly.

Can I Sue After the Statute of Limitations Passes?

In most cases, you cannot sue after the personal injury statute of limitations in California passes. Most often, the defense will file a request for dismissal, and most courts will dismiss a personal injury case that’s beyond the statute of limitations. This dismissal prevents you from receiving the compensation you may need and deserve, regardless of how serious your injuries are.

In addition, you only have the period within the statute of limitations, typically two years, to file a claim and formalize a settlement with the insurance company of the defendant or negligent entity that caused your injury. After this two-year period, these insurance companies are not obligated to provide any financial compensation so your opportunity to recover damages diminishes significantly.

What Are Exceptions to the California Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury?

You may gain an extension on the California statute of limitations for personal injury under a few circumstances.

First, you may not discover your injury right away. The clock could also stop if the person or entity responsible for your injury is unavailable (e.g., they went to prison or moved out of state).

In addition, if you were a minor when you received your injury, you could receive an extension. Once you become a legal adult and have the right and ability to file a lawsuit, you are subject to the statute of limitations again.

What About Suing a Government Entity?

When you sue the state of California or a county or city within the state, your case and the personal injury statute of limitations in California is different from a typical personal injury case against an individual or business. You need to prove that the government entity caused your injury and that it was the result of negligence.

You also must file an administrative claim with the government entity within six months of the date of the incident and wait 45 days for a response from the government. If the response from the government is unsatisfactory, you have two years to file a lawsuit. However, if the government denies your claim, the California personal injury statute of limitations changes to six months.

Do Malpractice Claims Fall Under Personal Injury?

California treats medical malpractice cases differently than traditional personal injury cases. They have shorter statutes of limitations: only one year, compared to the two-year statute of limitations for personal injury cases.

However, with birth injuries that result from medical negligence, you have eight years to file your claim.

What Is the Discovery Rule in the California Personal Injury Statute of Limitations?

If you did not discover your injury at the time you received it, it may be covered under the exception called the discovery rule. The day you discover you have an injury, you have the full period of the statute of limitations for your case to file your claim.

How Our Personal Injury Lawyers at The JLF Firm Can Help

If you received an injury that resulted from negligence on the part of someone else, pay close attention to the personal injury statute of limitations in California. At The JLF Firm, our attorneys have experience with a wide variety of personal injury cases. Contact our office for a free consultation and case review.

Get in touch with us today to get started with your FREE case review. We’re only a call, click, or short drive away.