California Personal Injury Statute of Limitations

California Personal Injury Statute of Limitations

When you are hurt by someone else, you may bring a legal claim for compensation. Did you know there is a deadline for victims to bring a personal injury claim for compensation?

 That’s right. In California, there is a deadline to bring a claim for compensation when you are injured by an individual or entities conduct. This is referred to as the Statute of Limitations and it places a strict deadline to bring an action. If you miss the deadline, you may be barred from bringing your claim forever. That is why it is so important to contact an attorney when you’ve been injured in an accident.

What’s the statute of limitations in my personal injury case?

The statute of limitations varies from claim to claim. For example, in a car accident, we are generally seeking compensation under the legal theory of negligence. In California, negligence is subject to a two-year limitation with limited exceptions/deadlines for government claims or claims involving minors. On the other hand, battery (an intentional tort) where someone intended to cause harm to another is subject to a one-year statute of limitations.

Each victim needs to know what deadline applies to them. Let’s explore the California statute of limitations in personal injury claims.

Contact our LA Century Law team for a confidential review of your case, including evaluating the statute of limitations and timeline for bringing your claim.

What is the statute of limitations for a personal injury claim in California?

Generally, personal injury claims are brought under Negligence. Negligence claims are subject to a two-year statute of limitations. This means that if a lawsuit is not filed within two years from the date of the accident, it may be lost forever. However, there is one caveat. If the claim is against a government entity, a “Claim For Damages” must be filed with the proper entity within six months from the date when the accident occurred. Therefore, it is important to contact an attorney as soon as you believe you have been harmed.

Statute of Limitations in California Personal Injury Law – By Type of Case and Circumstances

The most basic explanation of the California statute of limitations is that the time limit is two years for most personal injury claims. However, there are circumstances where the statute of limitations may be much shorter – or longer – based on the type of case and the personal situation of those involved. Let’s talk about some of these exceptions.

Minors – Victims Under 18

  • The statute of limitations begins when the victim turns 18
  • If the cause of the injury is medical malpractice, the victim has three years from the date of the wrongful act, or if they are under six years old, before their eighth birthday
  • If the injury occurs at the child’s birth or before their birth, the claim must be brought within six years
  • These timelines are not applicable to claims against government entities or uninsured motorist claims

(§ 340.4, § 340.5, § 352(a))

Crime Victims

The victim of a serious felony has ten years from the date the defendant is discharged from parole to start their claim. For less-serious felonies, the victim has one year from the date of the judgment against the defendant. (§ 340.3)

Delayed Discovery

There may be circumstances where a victim doesn’t realize that they are a victim right away. Delayed discovery may toll the statute of limitations until the time that the person discovers their injury. Alternatively, if a reasonable person would have suspected harm or a reasonable investigation would have shown that a dangerous product caused harm, that can cause the statute of limitations to run.

California Civil Jury Instructions 45 states that the statute of limitations is tolled when a reasonable person wouldn’t have known that the defendant’s wrongful conduct harmed them and when a reasonable investigation would not have disclosed it.

Government Agencies

When a claim is against a government agency, the statute of limitations is very short. The victim has only six months to initiate their claim. In addition to having a concise time frame, there are unique procedures for initiating a claim against the government. (§ 945.6)

Sexual Assault Victims

  • If the victim is over 18, they have ten years from the last act or attempted act
  • A victim over 18 has three years from the discovery of injury
  • It is not necessary to have a criminal procedure or a conviction
  • Victims under 18 have until age 40 or five years after discovery of the harm, whichever is later

(§ 340.16)

Toxic Exposure/Hazardous Material

For most personal injury claims based on toxic exposure and hazardous materials, the statute of limitations is two years from when the victim should have become aware of the cause of the injury. If the injury or illness is related to asbestos exposure, the statute of limitations is one year after the victim first suffered harm or knew that the asbestos exposure contributed to their disability.

(§ 340.2)

Defendant Absent from the State

In general, the time that a defendant is absent from the state doesn’t count against the statute of limitations. However, there are some circumstances that this rule doesn’t apply. Also, the rule applies only to the defendant’s absence, not the plaintiff’s.

See Dew v. Appleberry, 23 Cal.3d 631 (1979).

Victim Legally Insane

If a victim is incapable of transacting business or understanding their actions, the statute of limitations is tolled. An example of this is where a victim is unconscious following an injury. 

See Feeley v. Southern Pacific Transportation Co., 234 Cal.App.3d 649 (1991).

Plaintiff in Prison

A plaintiff who is in prison at the time their action accrues may have extra time to file their claim. The statute of limitations is tolled until they are released or for two years. There is no tolling while they are on parole.

See Belton v. Bowers Ambulance Service, 20 Cal.4th 928 (1999).

Death of a Victim or Defendant

  • If the plaintiff dies before the statute of limitations runs out, the parties have six months from the plaintiff’s death or the full extent of the original time frame.
  • If the defendant dies before the statute of limitations runs out, the plaintiff has one year from their death. This may make the time limit shorter or longer.

Lawyers to Understand the Statute of Limitations in Personal Injury

As you can see, many possible time limitations may apply. Let our lawyers help you evaluate your situation to see what the statute of limitations is for your case. Never assume that it is too late to file a case. But don’t wait either. 

Contact our team at LA Century Law today for a free case review. We can explore the statute of limitations and how you may receive compensation for your personal injury claim. Call or message us today.

The information above is not intended to be legal advice and should not be accepted as such. Further, these laws may vary from time to time and case by case. Call our attorneys now to discuss your matter and any pending statute of limitations.

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