What Is the California Statute of Limitations for a Car Accident?

September 30, 2020 Posted In Car Accidents

One of the many things you will need to consider as someone filing a car accident claim in California is the state’s statute of limitations. This is an important law that could affect your ability to recover. If you miss the statute of limitations, the courts in your county may refuse to hear your case. This could make it impossible to obtain compensation for your damages. For assistance meeting your statute of limitations, contact a car accident lawyer near you.

What Are the Statutes of Limitations?

A statute of limitations is a deadline. It caps the amount of time you have to file a civil lawsuit, as well as the amount of time a prosecutor has to bring charges against a defendant in a criminal case. Lawmakers created statutes of limitations to keep the justice system fair for both sides of a case. Without a deadline, claimants could wait as long as they wanted to file – leaving the defendant hanging in suspension indefinitely. To make things just and keep the legal system more efficient, each state created statutes of limitations.

In California, the statute of limitations on most car accident claims is two years. In general, you will have two years to come forward with a civil claim for your damages, such as a personal injury lawsuit against a negligent driver. Keep in mind that this deadline only applies to lawsuits, not insurance claims. Insurance companies typically require claims to be filed much sooner – often within just a few days of the collision. If you do not file an injury lawsuit within two years in California, you may surrender the right to hold the defendant responsible forever.

When Does the Statute of Limitations Begin?

Some claimants will have longer or shorter than two years to file car accident suits depending on the circumstances. The most common exception is the discovery rule. This rule states that if a car accident victim does not discover he or she is injured until a date later than that of the accident, the clock will start ticking on the date of injury discovery (or the date the injury reasonably should have been discovered) rather than the date of the accident. If you were in a wreck on October 15, for example, but did not realize you herniated a spinal disk until October 20, you would have two years from October 20 to file.

Exceptions to the Rule

An exception to the rule is if your case involves criminal charges pressed against the at-fault driver. If a drunk driver injured you and is facing DUI charges, for instance, you may have two years from the date of the conclusion of the driver’s criminal case to file an injury suit rather than that of the accident. If you were under 18 at the time of the collision, you may have until your 20th birthday to file. Finally, if your car accident case involves negligence or misconduct by the government – such as a negligent police car driver – you will have less than two years to file. Typically, you must file a tort claim against the government in California within six months of your injury.

Contact the Riverside Attorney

It is important to know and obey your statute of limitations as a car accident victim. A mistake regarding your deadline to file could bar you from financial recovery. The best way to ensure a timely claims filing process is by hiring a Corona car accident attorney. Your lawyer will know California’s statutes of limitations and any relevant exceptions. Your lawyer can assist you with the claims process to complete it as quickly as possible. Hiring a San Bernardino car accident attorney from the start of your case could help you file a valid claim.

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