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

The statute of limitations for filing a car accident claim in California is generally two years. Failure to file within that timeframe means the court will not consider the case. You then have no legal avenues for pursuing compensation for your injuries. The statute of limitations is the time period when a plaintiff can file a civil lawsuit against a defendant. These vary by state and the nature of the lawsuit. For example, while you must file a personal injury lawsuit within two years in California, you have a three-year statute of limitations for filing a property damage claim on your vehicle.

Even though the statute of limitations is usually two years, obtain legal advice as soon as possible after a car accident– because you do not want to find out that you cannot file a claim because your accident was subject to a shorter statute of limitations.  A Los Angeles car accident lawyer at Salamati Law will ensure your claim is filed on time when contacted promptly.

Wrongful Death

When a person dies from injuries caused by a negligent or reckless driver, their family may file a wrongful death lawsuit. The California statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death lawsuit is two years from the death date, not the date of the accident.

Public Entities

When the accident involved a vehicle belonging to a public entity or government agency, such as a school bus, the statute of limitations is much shorter. In such cases, a notice of claim requires filing within six months of the accident date. Such entities include local, county, state, and federal government agencies, and the Board of Education. If the entity denies the claim within 45 days, you have six months from the denial date in which to file a lawsuit.

Even if the accident did not involve a government vehicle per se, poor road maintenance or similar defects might have caused the incident.  That is another reason why consulting an attorney as soon as possible is critical. Your lawyer’s investigation may show that the entity with jurisdiction over the roadway is liable.

Delayed Discoveries

Not everyone immediately realizes that they were injured in a car accident. Some people think they escaped unscathed, only to exhibit symptoms weeks or even months later. Others may think their injuries were minor, but time reveals the damage is greater than initially thought.

If the accident victim can show that they did not know their condition was related to the collision, the delayed discovery rule may apply. This permits an extension of the two-year statute of limitations– when the plaintiff realizes the connection between their medical condition and the crash.

Statute of Limitations Tolling

In some instances, the statute of limitations is suspended for a specific period. In legal terms– it is known as tolling. The suspension may occur because the accident victim was a minor. The tolling ends once the person reaches their 18th birthday, with the statute of limitations in effect for two years after that. If the parents already filed a lawsuit, the accident victim must file a lawsuit by their 19th birthday.

Finally, the statute of limitations may toll when the plaintiff cannot find the defendant or if the latter is incarcerated or mentally incapacitated.

Contact us for a free consultation

If you or someone you know suffered serious injuries in a motor vehicle accident because of another party’s negligence, an experienced personal injury lawyer at Salamati Law can help. Schedule a free, confidential consultation by calling or texting 24/7 or completing our online form.

Since we work on a contingency basis, you pay no fee unless we win your case. Hablamos Español.

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We are committed to negotiate your case aggressively, strategically and creatively. Personal injury lawsuits are retained on a contingency fee agreement, and plaintiffs will pay no legal fees unless the firm is able to recover damages on your behalf.

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