Personal InjuryUnderstanding the Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Claims in California

May 30, 20240

The statute of limitations is a law that sets a time limit for filing a lawsuit. In California, the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit is two years from the date of injury. This means that if you suffer an injury due to another person’s negligence, you normally have two years to file a lawsuit seeking compensation. Knowing the statute of limitations is critical for preserving your right to take legal action.

The Two-Year Statute of Limitations

California Code of Civil Procedure section 335.1 states that “an action for assault, battery, or injury to, or for the death of, an individual caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another” must be commenced within two years. This means that once two years have passed from the date of injury, the right to file a lawsuit seeking damages is forfeited. The lawsuit must be formally filed and served on the defendant within the two-year period.

The date of injury starts the clock running on the limitations period. This is true regardless of whether the injury was immediately apparent. For example, if you suffered a back injury in a car accident but did not realize the full extent of harm for months, the statute would still begin running on the date of the accident.

Tolling Provisions that Pause the Clock

In some cases, the statute of limitations may be “tolled” or paused. This provides extra time to file beyond the normal two years. Reasons for tolling include:

  • The discovery rule: The clock may be paused until the injury or cause is discovered or reasonably should have been discovered. This often applies in cases of medical malpractice or latent defects.
  • Minors: For injured plaintiffs who were under 18 at the time of injury, the clock starts when they turn 18.
  • Mental incompetence: The clock is paused for plaintiffs who are mentally incapacitated and unable to manage their affairs.
  • Death: If an injured person dies from their injuries, the clock can reasonably be paused until the survivors find out about the death.

Types of Personal Injury Cases Subject to the Two-Year Limit

Many different types of personal injury claims are subject to the two-year statute of limitations in California, including:

  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Slip and fall accidents
  • Defective products
  • Medical malpractice
  • Nursing home abuse
  • Assault and battery
  • Dog bites
  • Construction accidents

No matter what the underlying cause or theory of liability, the claim must be filed within two years to preserve rights. The only exceptions are cases against governmental entities or childhood sexual abuse cases, which have special statutes of limitations.

Consequences of Missing the Filing Deadline

The biggest consequence of missing the statute of limitations is that the claim will likely be dismissed. The at-fault defendant can assert the statute of limitations as an affirmative defense to seek dismissal of the case. Judges will dismiss cases filed even one day late.

The only option if the deadline is missed is to pursue a claim against your attorney for legal malpractice. However, this requires proving the underlying personal injury case would have been successful.

Don’t Delay Consulting a Personal Injury Attorney

Because California’s statute of limitations for personal injury claims is strict, it is important to consult an attorney promptly if you have suffered harm due to negligence. An experienced personal injury lawyer can evaluate your case and advise you of all applicable deadlines. By starting the claims process right away, you help ensure sufficient time to build your case before time runs out.

Don’t risk losing your right to recover damages – contact our qualified injury attorneys today for help.

You can visit our office at 16633 Ventura Blvd. #602 Encino, CA 91436.

Or call now for a free consultation on (818) 659-8588.