Personal Injury Law Blog

California Car Accident Statute of Limitations Overview

Did you know that plaintiffs—that is, someone seeking compensation for injury—have a limited time to file personal injury claims? In California, the statute of limitations for car accidents bars recovery for those who take too long to file a lawsuit for their injuries. Here are some of the most important things you need to know about the car accident statute of limitations in California and how hiring one of our experienced personal injury attorneys may help.

The Statute of Limitations for California Car Accidents

According to the California Code of Civil Procedure, actions for injury or death must be filed within two years of injury. In most cases, you may not be able to file a lawsuit for your car accident after the statute of limitations expires. However, there are a few exceptions to this rule that may apply depending on the circumstances:

  • The plaintiff is a minor—the statute of limitations begins to run when the plaintiff turns 18 years old.
  • The plaintiff is mentally incompetent at the time of injury—if the victim has a mental illness or sustains a brain injury that leads to a coma, the statute of limitations doesn’t go into effect until they are considered competent.
  • The plaintiff is on active duty in the military—the statute of limitations does not apply until the end of a plaintiff’s active duty.
  • The plaintiff is in prison—if the plaintiff goes to prison, the statute of limitations doesn’t begin until their release or for two years, whichever comes first.
  • The plaintiff dies after the accident—if a family member dies after an accident, a surviving family member has two years from the date of death to file a wrongful death suit. 
  • The defendant leaves the state—in rare instances, the defendant may leave the state before the plaintiff files an action. In this case, the statute of limitations pauses until the defendant returns.

Despite these exceptions, it’s always best to contact a California car accident attorney to handle your case. At Glotzer & Leib, LLP, our lawyers can help determine the car accident statute of limitations based on your specific situation.

Why You Should Take Advantage of the Car Accident Statute of Limitations in California

When you get into a car accident, it’s important to keep in mind that the full extent of your injuries may not be apparent. Many accidents—large or small—result in lifelong injuries which require ongoing treatment. In some cases, it may take a year or more to realize the true cost of an accident injury. 

Fortunately, California law allows plaintiffs to seek compensation for any future losses they may incur due to their injury. When working with an attorney, there are a variety of factors that go into estimating future losses, including:

  • The severity of your injuries;
  • Your age and general health before the accident;
  • Your previous earning capacity, benefits, and life expectancy; 
  • Your ability to return to the same type of work; and
  • The treatment you need according to doctors and other medical experts.

Our Los Angeles car accident lawyers take all these factors into consideration when calculating your damages. By utilizing the time allotted by the statute of limitations on car accident claims, it may be possible to determine the full scope of your damages.

What You Need to File Your Claim

To file a claim before the car accident statute of limitations in California expires, you need to collect as much evidence as possible as quickly as possible. Any evidence related to your injury, even if it seems insignificant at first, may be a crucial part of your claim.

Medical Records

Any medical records related to the treatment of your injury make up the backbone of your claim. However, this goes much further than diagnosis, surgery, and medication. It’s also important to provide the notes your doctor makes about your injury and your potential recovery. If your injury results in permanent disability, your doctor may mention the difficulties you might experience in the future in their notes.

Photographs or Video of the Accident

If it’s safe to do so, try to collect any visual evidence at the scene of the accident. Photographs and videos help show the extent of the damage to your vehicle and the seriousness of your injuries at the time of the accident. In addition, they may make it easier to determine the events leading up to the accident and show the other driver’s fault.

Witness Statements

Even if you can’t collect evidence immediately following your accident, chances are somebody witnessed it. If your accident occurred on a busy street, try asking nearby businesses or residents if they saw the crash. In some cases, they may be willing to give a statement.

How Dealing with Insurance Companies Slows Your Claim

After your car accident, you may be tempted to negotiate your claim with the insurance company on your own. While it’s possible to represent yourself in your claim, this may slow down the process for a few reasons. First, the insurance company may use certain tactics to delay the settlement of your claim. Second, the adjuster may ask for additional information after you give them everything they request. Finally, they might give you a few low settlement offers hoping you’re desperate enough to take them.

Our car accident lawyers have the experience necessary to see through these methods used by insurance companies to delay claims. We also help negotiate for a better settlement on behalf of our clients when the insurance company gives low offers.

Don’t Wait for the Statute of Limitations to Expire—Call Us Today

If you or a loved one sustains an injury in a car accident, you don’t have to pursue your claim alone. At Glotzer & Leib our attorneys know the pressure that the car accident statute of limitations in California puts on families. We fight tirelessly for the compensation you need so you can focus on recovery. To schedule a free consultation, contact us online or give us a call at 213-309-3050. We have decades of combined experience representing clients throughout Los Angeles and Southern California.

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