What is the Car Accident Statute of Limitations in California?

If you’ve been injured in a car accident in Los Angeles, you only have a certain amount of time to file a lawsuit. Learn more about the statute of limitations in CA.

What is the Statute of Limitations for a Car Accident Claim in Los Angeles?

If you have been injured in a car accident in Los Angeles, you have the right to make a claim for damages (economic and non-economic damages) against a negligent driver. The time limit for filing a lawsuit to recover monetary compensation is set forth in California Code of Civil Procedure Section 340. In California, the car accident statute of limitations is two years from the date of the accident. The time limit for minors is extended until they reach the age of majority, 18 years old. 

Once the two-year time limit has passed, injured adults are barred from filing lawsuits. There are limited exceptions to this time limit, including for persons lacking mental capacity. 

The rationale behind legal time limits involves the preservation of relevant evidence. Since the ultimate determination of fault in accident cases depends upon the reliability of witmesses’ memories and accurate physical evidence, it is important that memories not fade or physical evidence not be lost. Different types of legal claims, such as medical malpractice, breach of contract, or fraud have different statutes of limitations which are also set forth in the California Code of Civil Procedure.

Injury claims against Governmental entities, such as cities, counties, public agencies, police agencies, schools, buses, and certain hospitals, must be brought within 6 months. These time limits are set forth in the California Government Code (See Gov’t Code Section 912 et. seq.

To learn the applicable statute of limitations after a car accident has occurred, you should contact an experienced Personal Injury Attorney as soon as possible to avoid having your valuable claim becoming precluded as a matter of law because the time limit has expired.

What Issues Can Affect the Statute of Limitations?

  1. Property Damage – If you are only seeking damages to repair damage to your vehicle or other property losses, the statute of limitations is three years according to the California Code for Civil Procedure, section 338. 
  2. Wrongful Death – A lawsuit based on the death of a person begins to run from the date of the death of that person even if the person dies some time after the accident
  3. Claims Against Government Entities – If the government is the defendant in your personal injury case, the time limit to file a claim is 6 months. Once the Governmental entity denies the claim, a lawsuit must be filed within one year of the denial of the claim.
  4. Injuries to Minors – If a child under 18 is injured in an accident, the two year period doesn’t begin to run until the child is the age of majority, 18 years old.
  5. Defendant Unavailable – The statute of limitations is extended if the person you intend to sue is in prison, insane, or out of the state. 
  6. Lack of Mental Capacity – The statute of limitations is extended for the period of time the person suing is mentally incapacitated. For example, if the injuries sustained are so severe that they render the injured victim unconscious or otherwise unable to act on their own, the statute of limitations is tolled.
  7. 7. Defendant Bankruptcy – If the individual that caused your accident files for bankruptcy, the court will automatically stay any lawsuit filed to collect damages from that person. Your claim against this person will not be discharged until the bankruptcy proceedings are complete.

What Happens If Your Claim is Filed After the Deadline?

If you attempt to file your case after the deadline has passed, the entire case may be dismissed by the Court. Unless your claim falls within the few limited exceptions that may allow the case to proceed, you will lose your chance to receive any compensation for injuries or property damage. This is why it is extremely important to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney who will know the appropriate time limit for filing your claim.

When is the Right Time to File Your Claim?

While many persons may believe that a lawsuit should be filed as quickly as possible after an accident, it is often better to proceed with presenting a claim with the insurance carrier of the negligent driver or responsible entity. This allows for time for the injured victim to obtain all necessary medical treatment and physical therapy. Once the full extent of injuries and losses have been determined, it may be possible to settle the claim with the insurance adjuster for a reasonable amount of compensation. In this way, the high cost of litigation and inherent delays encountered in congested Courts are avoided. A fair settlement is always better than holding out for a Judge or Jury’s determination of the value of your damages as long as a year or more after the accident.

In order to proceed with your claim in a timely manner and in the best way to maximize the amount of compensation you will receive for your injuries and other losses, it is crucial to consult with an experienced Los Angeles auto accident attorney who understands the statute of limitations and can make the best decisions possible regarding your case.

Get Help

Generally, the statute of limitations for car accidents in California is two years. The only way to know for sure the best course of action for your particular case is to consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer. The Drexler Law Firm can evaluate your case and advise you when to file. We have years of experience providing exceptional legal representation for individuals who have been injured in an accident and a proven track record in obtaining large settlements and jury verdicts for our clients. We have successfully represented thousands of clients who have been injured in accidents involving automobiles, motorcycles, bicycles and every imaginable scenario where serious injuries can occur. Contact The Drexler Law Firm for a consultation.

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