You may be thinking about filing a lawsuit or insurance claim if you’ve been injured in a Los Angeles car accident. While you may have the right to obtain compensation, it’s important to know that this right won’t last forever. California state law limits the amount of time you have to initiate a personal injury case. You could miss out on the money you need and deserve if you wait too long to file your claim.
What is a Statute of Limitations?
A statute of limitations limits the time you have to pursue compensation for an accident-related injury. Imagine that a giant clock begins to run the moment you’re involved in an accident. The clock is set for a pre-determined amount of time. Once time runs out, your right to file a lawsuit and recover compensation is lost.
Why Does California Impose Statutes of Limitations?
Statutes of limitations serve many purposes, including:
- Encouraging plaintiffs to file lawsuits promptly
- Ensuring the best evidence is used in personal injury cases
- Protecting defendants from frivolous or old claims.
California simply wants you to file your personal injury lawsuit within a reasonable amount of time after your accident. Cases that are initiated shortly after an accident will benefit from the most reliable evidence and protect all parties involved.
How Much Time Do I Have to File a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
There isn’t one sweeping statute of limitations that applies to all personal injury lawsuits. The time limit that applies to your case will depend on many factors, including the type and cause of your injury.
- Bodily Injury: 2 years from the date of your injury
- Property Damage: 3 years from the date of the accident
- Medical Malpractice: 3 years from the date of the injury or 1 year of discovering the injury
- Birth Injury: Claims must be filed before the injured child’s 8th birthday
- Wrongful Death: 2 years from the date of the victim’s death
Not sure which statute of limitations applies to your case? Protect your right to file a lawsuit by contacting an attorney immediately after your accident.
Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations
There are times when you won’t be able to file a timely claim because of circumstances beyond your control. California doesn’t want to punish you and prevent you from filing a legitimate lawsuit. The state may allow you to toll the statute of limitations in your case. Tolling simply means that the statute of limitations is paused for a period of time.
The statute of limitations can be tolled if:
- There’s a reasonable delay in discovering your injury
- The defendant in your case is incarcerated
- The defendant in your case can’t be located or isn’t in the state of California, or
- You were under the age of 18 at the time of your accident.
The clock will begin to run again once the obstacle that stands between you and the ability to file your lawsuit no longer exists.
Accelerated Statute of Limitations for Government Claims
You may have the right to sue the government for your injuries. However, you’ll have to act quickly. You will only have 6 months from the date of your accident to file a government claim. You’ll be denied compensation if you miss this quick deadline.
Time Limits For Filing an Insurance Claim
California law only applies to your right and ability to file a civil lawsuit. Different rules apply if you want to file an insurance claim for damages. There is no set statute of limitations for insurance claims. Insurance companies set their own rules. In most cases, insurance companies reserve the right to deny your claim if it’s not filed within a “reasonable” amount of time after your accident.
You may not know how much time you have to file a lawsuit or insurance claim. Speaking with an experienced attorney can help. Call our Los Angeles personal injury lawyers for assistance today.