The term “statute of limitations” is a legal term used to describe the state laws set in place to limit the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit after you’ve been injured or suffered any type of loss. The time limit depends on a few factors like what type of case you’ll be filing, and who you are filing that case against, among other things.
The California Code of Civil Procedure section 335.1 states that there is a two-year deadline for filing any type of action against someone accused of wrongful actions, neglect, or negligence that has resulted in injury or property damage. What this means, in essence, is that you have two years from the date of your car accident to file a lawsuit against the driver who acted negligently and caused the accident. After two years, you will be unable to bring your personal injury claim for that accident to court for any reason.
Of course, like any rules, there are exceptions. In the legal world, there is something called tolling, and that is when the statute of limitations becomes suspended for a period of time due to one of these exceptions. The statute of limitations is “tolled”. Let’s take a look at what those exceptions are, and how they relate to the statute of limitations time period.
While not technically a tolling, if you are not filing a personal injury lawsuit, but a civil suit for property damage only, California Code of Civil Procedure section 338 says that you have three years in which to file that suit against the driver who was at fault in the car accident. After three years, you will not be able to file suit for damages under any circumstances.
Children under the age of 18 will have the two-year statute of limitations tolled until they turn 18. If a child is injured in an accident and is only 16 years of age, for example, that child’s statute of limitations begins when they turn 18. They will have until two years from the date of their 18th birthday to file a lawsuit for that accident.
If the car accident you were injured because of was caused in any way by a government-owned entity, you have just six months from the date of the accident in which to file a claim. If the entity denies that claim (and this is often the case), you have six months from that denial of claim in which to file a lawsuit against the responsible government entity. The entity itself can be city or state police, municipal trucks, public transportation, mail carriers, or any entity owned by the government, or operated by a government employee.
If someone in your family suffered a fatality due to a car accident, you can bring suit against the responsible party via a wrongful death claim. The statute of limitations runs two years from the date of the person’s death, not the date of the accident. If it was a government entity that was at fault in the accident, some of those entities are immune to wrongful death lawsuits. If this is the case, you will definitely want to have an experienced personal injury attorney handling the case for you.
You may file your claim immediately following your accident, but that’s not always the smartest move to make, for a variety of reasons. Your injuries may take a very long time to heal, and the treatment for those injuries may continue for months after the accident, especially if the initial treatment wasn’t successful. An experienced personal injury attorney will be able to work with your medical treatment providers to secure a solid treatment plan so that you are getting the proper amount of care. They will also make sure you get the compensation you deserve to pay for all your medical treatment and care.
If you are in a hurry with settling your claim, and further injuries show up after you’ve settled with the insurance company, you will have no recourse for collecting additional damages. You will likely end up paying out of your own pocket for the medical treatment that you would’ve received compensation for, had you waited to file your lawsuit until after your injuries had completely healed.
The point is, you don’t want to file your claim too early, because there are too many unknowns, and you need to make sure that you are as back to normal as your doctor thinks you’ll get before filing your claim.
Conversely, you certainly don’t want to wait until the last minute to file your claim, either. Even if you’re very confident that the claim will be settled through the insurance company, you still want to retain the option of a lawsuit should anything not go as planned. And when you’re dealing with insurance companies, you can plan on things not going as planned. Therefore, waiting until the last minute is a bad idea, because there is a chance that the statute of limitations will run out before you’re able to begin legal proceedings. Now isn’t the time to procrastinate.
If you’ve been injured in a car accident, and you find the two-year statute of limitations date approaching, don’t panic. This may be the perfect time for you to find an experienced, skilled personal injury attorney that can get the ball rolling on your claim. If you’re worried about coming up with a retainer fee for an attorney, you should know that personal injury attorneys are paid on a contingency basis. This means that you will not have to pay anything to them out-of-pocket. They will get paid a percentage of the money that they recover for you in damages, so if they are not successful, you owe them nothing at all for their time. So it is in the best interest of the attorney to get you as much compensation as they can because when you get paid, they get paid.