California’s Car Accident Statute of Limitations—Why You Should File Your Case ASAP
If you can’t speak legalese, you’re not alone—let us clear up a few terms regarding California’s car accident laws that are absolutely vital to be aware of when you’re building a personal injury case.
What Is the Statute of Limitations?
Like most states, the statute of limitations in California affects all injury or death-related car accident lawsuits in California, and is identical to the law that covers other personal injury cases.
To be more specific, the state places a two-year limit on filing personal injury cases, including car accidents. Paraphrased from the California Code of Civil Procedure, section 335.1, personal injury cases refer to:
Actions caused by the wrongful act or neglect (negligence) of another, causing injury or death.
When Does This Two-Year Period Start?
That depends on whether the car accident in question resulted in death or injury.
If someone was hurt in the crash—whether that person was a driver, passenger, bicyclist, pedestrian or motorcycle rider—their lawsuit MUST be filed within two years of the date of the accident.
But if someone was killed in the crash, their family must bring a wrongful death case against the at-fault driver within two years of the person’s date of death.
For lawsuits that cover just vehicle damages, you have three years to file a case.
What Happens if You File a Lawsuit After the Deadline Has Passed?
Unfortunately, the court will most likely refuse to consider your case unless it falls under one of several very rare situations that may pause or extend your filing period under the statute of limitations. Because these situations are uncommon, it’s important to always be mindful of the invisible clock that starts after an accident.
If you plan on pursuing a personal injury or wrongful death case in California, leave yourself as much time as possible to get your case filed—even if you’re confident that your case will be resolved through normal insurance claims.
Leaving yourself plenty of time will at least mean you have the option to pursue a lawsuit, and will also give you more negotiating power during settlement talks.
If your deadline is fast approaching, it’s time to get in touch with an experienced California car accident attorney —and start fighting for the compensation you deserve before it’s too late.