How Long After a Car Accident Can You Sue in California?
In any state, your legal right to sue has a “shelf life”. You do not have an unlimited amount of time to file a car accident lawsuit. The deadline is known as the statute of limitations.
It is a firm and unforgiving rule that will mean that you surrender your legal right to compensation if you do not act in time. It is essential to contact an attorney after your car accident in California, so you can be in a position to act when necessary. Contact LA Century Law to discuss your case with an auto accident attorney in San Bernardino.
The Statute of Limitations in California Car Accident Cases
California law puts a limit on the amount of time that you have to file a personal injury lawsuit. Your legal right to compensation begins at the time you are injured. It ends when the statute of limitations expires. Assuming you have filed your claim or lawsuit before the conclusion of the statute of limitations ends, you have put your marker down and have preserved your right to compensation.
In California, the personal injury statutes of limitations are as follows:
- You have two years from the date of the injury to file a lawsuit.
- If you did not know that you were hurt right away, you have one year from the time that you discovered the injury. This is called the discovery rule, and it is especially helpful in product liability cases.
- In a wrongful death case, you have two years from the date of death to file a lawsuit.
Why the Statute of Limitations Exists in California
The statute of limitations exists for policy and fairness reasons. The law attempts to balance the interests of plaintiffs and defendants. While you have your legal rights to compensation if someone else was to blame for the accident, fairness also dictates that the responsible party is not going to be living under the threat of a lawsuit for an unfair amount of time. Theoretically, if the driver was sued years later, they would not have the evidence and witnesses that they needed to present the most effective case.
The statute of limitations is a crucial deadline. There is not even a day of leeway. Missing the time window by a day or a year has the same effect. You will lose the right to file a lawsuit. The court would dismiss your case without even giving you the ability to be heard on the merits.
Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations
There are some exceptions to the statute of limitations, but they are very strictly construed. You are the one who has the burden of proof to show that an exception exists, and you should certainly not count on it.
Some exceptions to the statute of limitations are:
- The plaintiff was less than 18 years old at the time of the accident.
- The defendant left the state during the period.
- The defendant actively avoided being served with papers.
You do not want to be in a position where you need to persuade the court that an exception to the statute of limitations applies.
Why You Should Not Wait to File a Lawsuit
Waiting to file a claim is counterproductive in many ways. It is possible for you to lose evidence, or for the proof to lose its state. Witnesses would not be able to testify credibly well into the future, when their recollections may have faded. Your proof may be gone.
It could take a considerable amount of time for the legal process to unfold. The insurance company likes to introduce delays, and courts do not operate on a quick timetable. You do not want to wait too long to file a claim or lawsuit. Your financial distress could worsen, and you may put yourself in a more compromising position. Insurance companies prey on claimants who they believe to be desperate.
Reach Out to an Attorney Right Away
You should at least contact a lawyer very shortly after the accident. Working with your attorney, you would figure out the best time to either approach the insurance company or file a lawsuit against the other driver. Delay makes your case harder because you would lose valuable evidence needed to prove your claim. Just because you have two years does not mean that you should wait that long to get started. Many attorneys will not take your case if you wait too long to contact them after the accident.
Contact a San Bernardino Personal Injury Attorney Today
You cannot afford to delay calling a lawyer after an accident. Your financial compensation is at stake, both whether you qualify for it in the first place and how much you may get. The attorneys at LA Century Law are standing by and ready to help you by fighting hard on your behalf. First, you need to schedule a free consultation, where you will learn about the legal process and how it may unfold. To speak with a lawyer, you can send us a message online or call us today. You owe us nothing unless we win.