California Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury


If you were injured in an accident that was not your fault, there are time restrictions on filing a lawsuit.

The California statute of limitations for personal injury applies to motor vehicle accidents, slip and fall incidents, injuries from a defective product, medical malpractice cases, and other claims. The rule acts as a complete bar to recovering compensation.

At the Wakeford Law Firm, our San Francisco personal injury attorneys have extensive experience and in-depth knowledge of the statute of limitations, exceptions, and other issues that affect timing in an accident case.

Please contact our offices to schedule a consultation right away, as time is of the essence in retaining a lawyer to handle your claim.

California’s Default Rule on Statute of Limitations

State law requires a victim to file a lawsuit within two years after an accident that is caused by wrongful acts or negligence. The statute of limitations in California starts the day you were hurt, so quick action is essential if you want to seek compensation for your losses. If you do not sue the responsible party in civil court within two years after the incident, you are forever barred from recovering monetary damages.

Two years may seem like a long time, but you should note that it may go by quickly as you are getting back to health and understanding the full impact of your injuries. Plus, you will likely file a claim with the insurance company that provides coverage for the responsible party. Completing the forms, investigations, negotiating a settlement, and other aspects of the process may take longer than you would expect. Therefore, you should consult with a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after you were hurt.

Exceptions to the California Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury

While the default rule will govern all negligence-based accidents, there are some exceptions you should note.

  • The statute of limitations on a case involving the government as a responsible party is much less than accidents with a private individual or entity. You only have six months to file a claim and there are strict procedural rules you must comply with when dealing with a governmental body.
  • The clock may start to run some time after your accident if you do not discover your injuries right away. If you do not become aware of the facts surrounding your injuries through exercise of reasonable care, this “delayed discovery” exception allows you additional time. This concept is often involved in medical malpractice claims.
  • If the victim was under age 18, he or she does not have legal capacity in the eyes of the law. Likewise, a person suffering from a mental illness may not have legal capacity. This period tolls the statute of limitations.
  • If the responsible party fled the State of California after the accident, but before you could file a lawsuit, the statute of limitations is also tolled.

Other Limitations on Your Personal Injury Claim

Aside from the statute of limitations, there are other legal rules and concepts that may affect your claim or amount of compensation.

  • Comparative NegligenceIf your own conduct was a factor in the accident that caused your injuries, your amount of monetary damages will be reduced. The key question is the amount of fault attributable to you. The percentage of responsibility on your own shoulders will be subtracted from your total amount of compensation.
  • Uninsured Drivers: When you are the victim of an auto accident and do not carry insurance according to California law, you cannot recover any compensation for your non-economic losses. This category of damages refers to your pain, suffering, and emotional losses. You can still recover for medical bills, lost wages, and related out-of-pocket costs, which are considered economic losses. This rule applies regardless of who was at fault in the crash.
  • Statutory Cap on Medical Malpractice Damages: As the victim of a medical error, you are limited in what you can recover for non-economic damages. Under California law, you can obtain up to $250,000 in non-economic damages when your injuries are the result of medical malpractice. As with uninsured drivers, the law does not impact the amount you can recover for economic damages.

A skilled personal injury lawyer may be able to help you with these legal limitations, depending on the details of your case.

Discuss the California Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury with an Experienced Attorney

While the statute of limitations on personal injury cases may seem straightforward, there are specific rules and exceptions that only an experienced lawyer knows in detail.

Plus, there are other issues that may place limitations on your claim, so you need a skilled attorney to help overcome legal challenges. If you were in an accident and want to know more about your rights, please contact Wakeford Law Firm to schedule a no-cost case assessment.

You can reach our San Francisco and Marin County lawyers by calling 415-569-7495 or visiting our website.

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