In California, the state-mandated statute of limitations for most personal injury claims is two years from the date of your injury. That means you have two years to file a lawsuit against the person who caused your pain and suffering, and the court will dismiss any suit filed after the deadline.
However, there is one exception. The delayed discovery rule in California allows you to file a civil lawsuit after the statute of limitations passes. The California personal injury team at LA Century Law can guide you through the civil process where the delayed discovery rule applies.
When Can You Invoke the Delayed Discovery Rule in California?
You may need the delayed discovery rule if your injuries were not immediately apparent after an accident or if you were reasonably unaware that you have a personal injury claim. In California, you can invoke this rule only if you can prove the following:
- You did not discover or know the elements of your case that would lead any reasonable person to assume another party’s wrongful actions harmed you.
- No one could have discovered or known the elements of your case that would cause a reasonable person to assume they suffered harm because of someone else’s wrongful actions.
- No reasonable investigation or diligence led to the discovery that a product or event contributed to your injury or loss.
You may apply the delayed discovery rule to any case in California where you can rightfully pause the statute of limitations. If you are unsure how this may apply to your case, our experienced personal injury attorneys will evaluate your claim and help you take the next step toward recovering compensation.
Examples of the Delayed Discovery Rule in Use
Delayed discovery can apply to any type of personal injury case. The most common claims include:
- Motor vehicle accidents, including collisions involving cars, trucks, motorcycles, pedestrians, and bicyclists
- Slip-and-fall accidents occurring on someone else’s property
- Animal attack accidents
- Product liability accidents, where the manufacturer is responsible for harm caused by defective products
- Wrongful death cases, where the victim suffered what would otherwise constitute a personal injury claim had they survived
You would typically seek medical attention immediately after one of these accidents. However, if the full effects of the injury did not show up in your evaluation, you may need to invoke the delayed discovery rule in California to seek compensation for those latent losses.
Similarly, in a wrongful death case involving a defective product that slowly caused harm over time, the victim’s family may not know what caused their loss for months or years.
Why Does the Statute of Limitations Exist?
The statute of limitations protects those accused of wrongful actions from facing unfair legal consequences. When a substantial amount of time passes after an incident, it can impact the validity of evidence.
For example, a car accident resulting in significant property damage and bodily harm warrants filing a claim and holding the at-fault party accountable. However, the claim is less reliable if the victim knowingly waits more than two years to seek damages, calling on eyewitnesses to pull details of the accident from long-term memory.
Additionally, they may lose access to valuable evidence over time, much of it becoming irretrievable, lost, or obscured. Most statutes of limitations for civil and criminal claims serve the evidence and its preservation.
How Do Delayed Discovery Rules Work?
When the delay discovery rule applies to a case, the victim can file a lawsuit as long as the time between discovering the injury and filing their claim is within the deadline. The deadline still exists but at a later date. According to the delayed discovery rule in California, you have one year from the date you discovered the formerly unknown injury to file your lawsuit.
The difference between delayed discovery and tolling/suspending
Tolling is a broader term used to describe situations that permit the court to pause the statute of limitations. Delayed discovery is just one form of equitable tolling. Other examples include:
- If the victim in a personal injury case is a minor
- If the victim was not cognitively capable of making decisions or evaluating the aftermath of their accident
- If the victim proved legally insane through an evaluation
- If the defendant was in prison or out of state after the accident
Tolling provisions effectively suspend the statute of limitations on a wrongful act. The delayed discovery rule stops the clock specifically because the plaintiff did not or could not know that they had a reason to file a claim or lawsuit.
Contact Our Firm About the Delayed Discovery Rule in California
You should contact our legal team if you have questions about a personal injury claim. If the delayed discovery rule in California applies to your case, you may still have time to build a claim and recover damages for your losses. You must act promptly.
Our team of experienced attorneys can help you understand the value of your case and how to navigate the legal process. Contact us at LA Century Law by phone or online to schedule your free consultation. We keep the phone line open 24/7.