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What is the statute of limitations for suing over a car accident in California?

By July 12, 2021May 26th, 2022No Comments

If you’ve been in a car accident in California that wasn’t your fault, time is of the essence when it comes to getting all the compensation you are owed. 

In California, dealing directly with insurance companies without the assistance of a personal injury attorney will have dire consequences. 

What if the other driver is refusing to cooperate? What if the insurance company is refusing to offer you a fair settlement, or worse, any settlement at all? 

Reiner, Slaughter, & Frankel have over 150 years of collective experience helping our clients with cases just like this. Our attorneys know the nuances of personal injury law better than anyone else in the business.

What is a statute of limitations in California?

A statute of limitations is a state law that dictates the time period you have to file a legal claim. After a certain amount of time, the issue is too old, and you can’t file a claim anymore.

There are different statutes of limitations for different legal violations, which means the time period you have for filing a claim differs depending on what you’re trying to sue over. The most common lawsuits involving car accidents have to do with personal injury, and insurance companies will do everything in their power to avoid huge settlements. 

California law says you have two years to file a lawsuit for personal injury claims, but did you know there are exceptions to the rule? The Golden State’s personal injury regulations are complicated. That’s where we come in.

How long do I have to file a personal injury lawsuit?

The California Code of Civil Procedure Section 335.1 states that a claim over “injury to… an individual caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another” must be filed within 2 years. So if you’re in a car accident and you suffer whiplash, for example, you have 2 years from the date of the accident to file your personal injury claim.

But there are important caveats – ones you wouldn’t know if you aren’t well-versed in the laws governing personal injury in California. 

If an injury doesn’t make itself apparent until after the date of the crash, that doesn’t count against the two-year time limit. For example, say you’re in a car crash and you feel fine at the scene, but you don’t realize you have whiplash until your second visit to the doctor a month later.

When does the two-year statute of limitations kick in? That would be two years after the date you discovered your injury.

What about for property damage, or wrongful death? Is the statute of limitations different for those?

Similar rules are in place if you’re suing over the wrongful death of a family member — if the victim of the injury dies a month after the accident, that’s when the two-year time limit would start. But there are exceptions to these rules, too, rules insurance companies don’t want you to know about. Remember: insurance companies are not in the business of paying you what you deserve. They are always going to pay you as little as possible.

One important exception to wrongful death lawsuits: if the victim is a minor, they have two years from the day they turn 18 to file a personal injury claim.

Vehicle damage is covered under an entirely different statute. The state of California generally gives you 3 years to sue over property damage as the result of a car accident. But there are fewer exceptions in this case, because the damage to your car should be obvious from the moment you get it looked at by a mechanic.

Contact a California car accident attorney to file your claim today

If you thought the statutes of limitations in California were pretty straightforward, they’re not. The same goes for most aspects of filing a legal claim. There are deviations from the law.

And when you’re dealing with traumatic events like a serious injury or the death of a loved one, you want someone experienced on your side.

At Reiner, Slaughter, & Frankel, we’ve earned over $600 million over the years for our clients. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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