If you have been injured in a car accident in California, you may be thinking about how you are going to recover, both financially and physically. If the accident was someone else’s fault, you may be eligible to file a car accident claim against them in order to pursue financial compensation for the losses you suffered. However, in the State of California, there is a time limit with regards to filing car accident claims. This time limit is known as a statute of limitations.
In general, the time limit in California is usually two years from the date of the accident. However, this time limit can be different based on the circumstances of the accident.
It’s important for you to understand the car accident statute of limitations and how it applies to the circumstances involved in your legal claim. If you fail to file a claim before the deadline expires, a court might entirely dismiss your claim. Put another way, you’ll forever lose any rights you have to financial compensation.
Are you worried regarding the statute of limitations and how it applies to your personal injury claim? Reach out to Nadrich & Cohen. An experienced car accident lawyer at our law firm can review your California car accident claim and discuss with you how California’s statute of limitations is applied regarding the circumstances of your case.
Call us today for a free consultation, text us from this page or fill out the free case evaluation form on this page.
California Car Accident Claim Statute Of Limitations
Statutes of limitations are laws that restrict how much time people have to bring a legal claim in court. Each state has its own statutes of limitations, and they will be different depending on what kind of case you want to file. Below we’ve outlined the statute of limitations for each state for personal injury and property damage.
|State||Property damage||Bodily injury|
|Alabama||2 years||2 years|
|Alaska||2 years||2 years|
|Arizona||2 years||2 years|
|Arkansas||3 years||3 years|
|California||3 years||2 years|
|Colorado||3 years||3 years|
|Connecticut||2 years||2 years|
|Delaware||2 years||2 years|
|Florida||4 years||4 years|
|Georgia||4 years||2 years|
|Hawaii||2 years||2 years|
|Idaho||3 years||2 years|
|Illinois||5 years||2 years|
|Indiana||2 years||2 years|
|Iowa||5 years||2 years|
|Kansas||2 years||2 years|
|Kentucky||2 years||1 year|
|Louisiana||1 year||1 year|
|Maine||6 years||6 years|
|Maryland||3 years||3 years|
|Massachusetts||3 years||3 years|
|Michigan||3 years||3 years|
|Minnesota||6 years||6 years|
|Mississippi||3 years||3 years|
|Missouri||5 years||5 years|
|Montana||2 years||3 years|
|Nebraska||4 years||4 years|
|Nevada||3 years||2 years|
|New Hampshire||3 years||3 years|
|New Jersey||6 years||6 years|
|New Mexico||4 years||3 years|
|New York||3 years||3 years|
|North Carolina||3 years||3 years|
|North Dakota||6 years||6 years|
|Ohio||2 years||2 years|
|Oklahoma||2 years||2 years|
|Oregon||6 years||2 years|
|Pennsylvania||2 years||2 years|
|Rhode Island||10 years||3 years|
|South Carolina||3 years||3 years|
|South Dakota||6 years||3 years|
|Tennessee||3 years||1 year|
|Texas||2 years||2 years|
|Utah||3 years||4 years|
|Vermont||3 years||3 years|
|Virginia||5 years||2 years|
|Washington||3 years||3 years|
|Washington, D.C.||3 years||3 years|
|West Virginia||2 years||2 years|
|Wisconsin||6 years||3 years|
|Wyoming||4 years||4 years|
For most car accidents in California the time limit will be two years from the date of the accident in order to file personal injury claims.
The reason statutes of limitations are important is because they make sure legal cases get promptly resolved, protect defendants’ legal rights and prevent the court system from being slowed down by stale or excessive claims.
Statutes of limitations also matter because:
- Evidence may degrade over time: Evidence like tire tracks, footprints or bodily fluids can deteriorate as time passes. This can lead to injury victims not being able to prove whose fault an accident was, or defendants lacking evidence in order to present a fair defense.
- Witness can forget things: Judges and juries can consider statements by eyewitnesses to be extremely important since the witnesses don’t have anything to gain regarding a case’s outcome. However, by waiting too long before filing a claim, you can cause witnesses to forget important details about what was witnessed, and this can lead to an unjust legal outcome.
Exceptions To The Two Year Time Limit In California
In most cases, if you’re injured in a car accident in California, you will have two years from the date of the accident to file a claim. However, there are exceptions to this:
A Government Agency Is Involved
A personal injury lawsuit will always demand urgency. However, a car accident lawsuit involving certain circumstances will require more urgency than normal. If your auto accident case involves a government agency in California, you only have six months from the date of the accident for you or your personal injury lawyer to file a claim. If you were injured by a car accident that was at least partially caused by a government agency or someone working for a government agency, you’ll need to file a claim with California, the state.
Many situations can end up with you or your experienced attorney needing to file government claims. One common example involves a motor vehicle accident occurring due to a dangerous roadway condition. If the dangerous condition should have been fixed by a government entity such as Caltrans but was not, then that entity is liable for your injuries and you will have six months to file a government claim. Another example would be if you have been struck by an automobile managed by the government.
In both of these examples, it’s important for you to obtain the support and help of an experienced lawyer who will quickly act on your behalf. Just like other personal injury claims, claims involving the government require evidence to be urgently documented. When accidents could and should have been prevented, the county or city will probably act very swiftly in order to repair any dangerous conditions to prevent further injuries from occurring. This will result in evidence being destroyed – and this may affect the outcome of your case.
Call us today for a free consultation if you’ve been injured in an accident involving a government agency. It’s important that we start the claim process right away because putting together a convincing case can take time.
The Discovery Rule
Most car accident victims have two years from the date of their accident in order to file a claim. However, technically, in California, you actually have two years from the date that you discovered your injury.
It is actually common for car accident victims to not realize they have been injured until days, weeks or even months after an accident. This is partially because endorphins and adrenaline can mask pain at an accident scene.
So, if you were injured in an accident but didn’t actually discover your injury until a doctor diagnosed you with the injury days, weeks or months after the accident, you would have two years from the date your injury was discovered in order to file your claim.
As a side note, since it’s common for accident victims to not realize they’ve been injured until well after an accident happens, we recommend that you seek medical attention as soon as possible after being involved in an accident. This is because if you wait too long for your injuries to be documented by a medical professional, an insurance company can claim that your injuries were actually caused by something other than your car accident and refuse to pay you for your injuries.
Certain circumstances can cause a statute of limitations to be tolled, or paused, in California:
- The plaintiff or defendant is under the age of 18: If your car accident was caused by a driver under the age of 18, you have two years from the date the driver turns 18 years old in order to file a claim. If you were under 18 when you were injured by a car accident, you have two years from the date you turn 18 to file a claim.
- The plaintiff or defendant is outside of California: The statute of limitations pauses while a plaintiff or defendant is outside of the state of California. Thus, if you’re injured in an accident by someone who then leaves California for two months and then returns, you have two years and two months from the date of the accident to file a claim.
- The plaintiff or defendant is in state prison: The statute of limitations pauses while plaintiffs or defendants are in state prison in California. Thus, if you’re injured in an accident by someone who is then placed in state prison for one year and is then released, you’ll have three years from the date of the accident to file a claim.
- The plaintiff or defendant is declared legally insane: The statute of limitations pauses while plaintiffs or defendants are considered legally insane in California. Thus, if you are injured in a car accident by a person who is then declared legally insane, and is then declared mentally fit one year later, you’ll have three years from the date of your car accident to file a claim.
While the bulk of damages in a car accident claim will typically be compensation for medical bills, property damage is also part of some car accident claims. The statute of limitations for filing a claim seeking compensation for property damage in California is three years from the date of the accident, not two years.
The statute of limitations for wrongful death claims regarding car accident claims in California is two years from the date of the death, not the date of the accident. Sometimes car accident victims don’t die from their injuries until days, weeks or months after the accident.
Do I Need A Lawyer To File A Claim?
You do not technically need a lawyer to file a claim if you’ve been injured in a car accident in California. However, if you want to be able to recover the maximum compensation possible for your injuries, then yes, you need a lawyer.
There are two reasons you need a lawyer if you want to recover the maximum compensation for your injuries:
- Insurance companies won’t offer you what you deserve if you aren’t represented by an attorney
- Insurance companies will try to manipulate you in order to devalue your claim
You Won’t Recover What You Deserve Without A Lawyer
You are entitled to full financial compensation for your injuries from whoever caused your car accident under California law. In most cases, the sole source of recovery in a car accident claim is the at-fault party’s insurance company. This means the at-fault party’s insurance company has a legal obligation to fully compensate you for your injuries up to the policy limits.
However, just because the insurance company has this legal obligation doesn’t mean they’ll actually pay you what you’re entitled to. In fact, they will refuse, every time, to pay you what you’re entitled to if you don’t have a lawyer. The reason why is because the only way to force an insurance company to pay you all of the money you’re entitled to after an accident is to sue them if they refuse to fully compensate you. Insurance companies know you can’t file a lawsuit and win without a lawyer – insurance companies can afford lawyers of their own to defend them in court. Thus, if you don’t have a lawyer, the insurance company knows you can’t make them offer you a fair settlement offer. So, they’ll simply quickly offer you a tiny low-ball offer and pressure you to accept it, hoping you’re desperate enough for a quick payday to accept the offer.
However, if you have experienced car accident attorneys with a well-established reputation for success like Nadrich & Cohen by your side, insurance companies will know you can sue them and win. This is why almost every one of our cases is settled out of court. Insurance companies know it’s a waste of their time and expensive legal fees to go to battle against us in court. They know that if we’re representing you, they have two choices:
- Fully compensate you up to policy limits
- Spend money on lawyers, lose in court and end up fully compensating you up to policy limits anyways
Insurance companies know it’s in their best financial interests to offer you a fair settlement offer when we represent you.
It’s Dangerous For You To Talk With Insurance Companies
The worst thing you can do after being injured in a car accident is to talk with the at-fault party’s insurance company. They will try to trick you into saying things they can use to devalue your claim. They might trick you into implying partial fault for your accident. They might trick you into implying your injuries are not as severe as you are claiming. If you fall for their tricks, it will result in your claim being severely devalued.
Don’t risk incriminating yourself while talking with insurance companies. Call us instead so we can represent you and handle all conversations with insurance companies for you.
Call us today for a free consultation if you or a loved one was injured or killed in a car accident in California. We have been representing car accident victims since 1990 and have recovered over $400,000,000 for clients.