There is a time and place for everything. For claims and lawsuits after an accident, that time can be quite flexible – if you know how to make use of it. This is why understanding the statute of limitations in California is important.
An accident can be a serious life-changing event, causing irreparable damage or leaving you injured and in pain for weeks, months, years, or even decades. In the worst of cases, accidents can turn our lives around completely, ripping away the lives of those we love and changing people forever.
Recovering from a serious accident is no small feat.
And for most people, that recovery takes time and concentrated effort. It is difficult then to be in the right state of mind to tackle something like a lawsuit in such a delicate time, but if you need the financial compensation to cope with an injury’s aftermath, then time is of the essence.
You do not have to file a lawsuit or negotiate a claim on your own.
Personal injury lawsuits, in most cases, involve an attorney on a contingency fee, meaning you do not have to front the cost of the suit, and simply negotiate the percentage the attorney receives after the suit is completed.
By partnering with a reputable law firm, you have less to worry about in the immediate aftermath of an accident.
Going to court is never a necessity – even with an experienced trial attorney at your side, often it only takes the leverage of a good lawyer to reach a fair settlement.
However, it is important to take just the right amount of time to choose your legal representatives.
Knowing the statute of limitations in California for personal injury cases can help you plan out the next few months and ensure that you get the help you need to recover from the physical, emotional, and financial losses caused by the accident.
What is the Statute of Limitations in California?
Put simply, there is a time limit for charging individuals or entities after an offense.
Therefore, the statute of limitations in California is as follows:
- A misdemeanor: one year
- A felony: three years
- Heinous crimes: no limit
- Personal injury: two years (if filing against private entity)
For example, for a theft considered a misdemeanor, the statute of limitations is one year.
For a felony theft in California, the statute of limitations in three years.
Heinous crimes such as murder do not have a statute of limitations in California.
Although a personal injury claim is not the same as charging someone with a crime, there is a statute of limitations in California for filing a lawsuit against an individual or insurer after the personal injury.
In California, that time limit is exactly two years when filing a lawsuit against a private person or company.
If the personal injury claim is levied against a California state entity, however, then there is a limit of only six months, giving victims of an accident a very short amount of time to file.
Why Have a Statute of Limitations?
The statute of limitations in California exists to give defendants the opportunity to effectively argue their case.
In general, when a crime is committed, and someone is charged, having a statute of limitations in place ensures that the charges are levied within a reasonable amount of time.
This is a time within which crucial evidence is still available and not lost or deteriorated.
Charging someone with a crime many years after the fact may also end in more cruelty and accusation than justice.
In the case of civil cases such as a personal injury suit, demanding compensation years after the fact may muddle a case as certain evidence may no longer be available, among other factors.
Exceptions to The Above California Statute of Limitations
Aside from the two-year rule and six-month rule, there are certain things to consider when calculating how much time you have left to file a personal injury claim in California.
1. Personal Injury and the Discovery of Harm
The deadline for a personal injury case will receive an extension if the full extent of a person’s injuries is only discovered later.
In that case, the beginning of the statute of limitations deadline changes to the date on which the injury or harm is discovered.
This “discovery of harm” rule gives you more time to explore your options, but it is still not wise to wait too long until you act.
Although insurers will do their best to process a claim quickly, they may not do you full justice.
2. Filing a Lawsuit After the Deadline
The statute of limitations in California states if you try to file a suit after the deadline, the courts will throw it out. That is, unless the deadline is not over yet.
Special circumstances, such as late discovery of an injury, can extend the deadline based on when the injury was discovered.
Before you settle, be sure to consult with medical and legal professionals.
Consider exploring the possibility of going to court with an experienced trial attorney, if only for additional leverage during settlement negotiations.
Do not wait too long after an accident to explore all your options. After all, timing is key.
Timing is Everything
In the immediate aftermath of an accident, it is unlikely that the first thing on a victim’s mind is their future day in court. However, it is important to seek legal representation as soon as you are able.
The first thing anyone should do after a major accident is swiftly seek medical attention.
It is important to treat injuries before they cause life-threatening complications.
Seeking medical attention right after an accident proves you have injuries. It gives you a clear record to indicate the level of injury.
This is important when filing for compensation, as paperwork is needed to back up a claim and provide further leverage for a settlement.
Once you know the full extent of your injuries and are out of the proverbial woods, seek legal representation.
A reputable law firm specializing in personal injury cases can help ensure that you get coverage for your present and future treatment costs. They also ensures all lost wages, and non-economic damages such as pain and suffering.
You Have to Be Timely
Failing to seek legal representation soon may end in financial losses and tragedy.
If your opposing party is an insurance company, they may only compensate you in part, rather than in full.
Or, if you fail to gather evidence properly or seek medical attention swiftly, they may even try and have your claim thrown out or will only compensate you for damage to your property/vehicle.
Even if you feel fine after an accident, get medical care immediately. Some injuries may lay dormant until provoked by the right amount of physical trauma.
If you do pursue a claim, know the full extent of your treatment. This includes future costs for ongoing medication such as painkillers and antibiotics.
If you need more information about the statute of limitations in California, or would like to speak with a personal injury lawyer, call The Law Office of David H. Greenberg.