Every state has a time limit when it comes to filing a lawsuit or proceeding with other civic actions, such as arbitrations. This time limit is called “Statute of Limitations.”
There is a different statute of limitations, i.e. time limits, for different types of actions as well. For example, the statute of limitations for a personal injury matter, such a car accident or a slip and fall, is different from the statute of limitations for a breach of contact case, and different from a professional malpractice action.
THIS ARTICLE ONLY DISCUSSESES STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS IN PERSONAL INJURY MATTERS THROUGHT OUT CALIFORNIA.
For matters outside of California, please check with that state’s statute of limitation laws. The article is for information purposes only, as of August 2022. It is NOT meant to serve as legal advice, serve as attorney-client communication, or create an attorney-client relationship.
Typical Personal Injury Matters, Not Involving Government or Public Entities
In California, an injured party has 2 years from the date of incident to file a lawsuit. This means that if you are injured in a car accident in Santa Clarita, slip and fall in a supermarket in the San Fernando Valley, or are bitten by dog in Los Angeles, you have two (2) years to resolve your “injury claim”.
If you do not resolve your injury claim within two (2) years, you must then file a lawsuit. If you do not resolve your injury claim or file a lawsuit within two (2) years, you will forever be barred from seeking compensation.
The two (2) year statute of limitations apply to personal injury matters, such as:
- Auto and vehicle accidents, including truck accidents, bus accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and train accidents;
- Slip and falls – Trip and falls;
- Dog bites (or other animal attacks);
- Food poisoning;
- Burn injuries;
- Wrongful death cases; and
- Products liability.
Exceptions: The two (2) year statute of limitations do NOT apply in cases involving a government or public entity, professional malpractice cases (medical malpractice), minors and individuals who are physically incapacitated or incarcerated. Consult with an attorney when it comes to these types of matters.
Car accidents and Uninsured Motorist Claims
In an uninsured motorist claim, your insurance company steps into the shoes of the adverse insurance company. So, for example, you get into an auto accident with another driver in Santa Clarita and find out that the other driver does not have insurance. What happens then?
Fortunately, you have uninsured motorist coverage on your automobile policy, which means that you can file an uninsured motorist claim with your own insurance company.
What about Statute of Limitations? The same two (2) year Statute of Limitations apply to your uninsured motorist claim with one exception- you ask for arbitration instead of filing a lawsuit.
This means that you have two (2) years to resolve your uninsured motorist claim with your insurance company. If you do not resolve your uninsured motorist claim within two (2) years, you must then ask for arbitration or you will forever be barred from seeking compensation.
Property Damage Claims with No Physical or Emotional Injuries
In California, a harmed party has 3 years from the date of incident to resolve a “property damage” claim. So, if you have a property damage claim related to your vehicle or home, you have three (3) years to resolve your “property damage” claim.
If you do not resolve your property damage claim within three (3) years, you must then file a lawsuit. If you do not resolve your property damage claim or file a lawsuit within three (3) years, you will forever be barred from seeking compensation.
Government and Public Entities
In California, a party who has a claim for “personal injury” and/or “property damage” against a government or public entity MUST FIRST file a claim with the government or public entity within 6 months.
So, whether you are injured in a car accident with a law enforcement officer in Santa Clarita, you slip and fall on government property in Los Angeles, or you trip and fall on the sidewalk in the San Fernando Valley, you must first file a claim with the city, county, or state who employs the officer or with the entity who is responsible for the location of your fall within 6 months from the date of the incident.
The government or public entity then has 45 days to accept or reject your claim. They typically reject such claim. Once the claim is rejected, then you have one (1) year from the date of rejection to file a lawsuit. If you do not file a lawsuit within one year, you will forever give up your right to recovery.
Professional Malpractice Cases (Medical Malpractice)
In California, an injured party has one (1) year from the date of “discovery” to file a lawsuit. This means that if you have a malpractice case, you must file a lawsuit with one (1) year from the date you realized or should have realized that someone committed malpractice.
If you do not file a lawsuit within one (1) year, you will forever give up your right to recovery.
However, before filing a lawsuit in a medical malpractice action, you must first serve the person or entity who committed medical malpractice with a “Notice of Intent to Sue” letter.
Final note: Always consult with an attorney when it comes to this or any other legal matter. This article is not meant to serve as legal advice. It is only for information purposes.