How Long Do I Have To File a Personal Injury Claim?

Personal injury lawsuits allow injured and economically damaged individuals to recover their losses if they resulted from another party’s negligence. A personal injury claim seeks to make the plaintiff “whole” after suffering losses from negligent or intentionally harmful acts. Anyone who suspects valid grounds for a personal injury lawsuit in California should seek professional legal counsel as soon as possible. Every claim must meet the state’s statute of limitations or time limit for filing.

California Statute of Limitations

In California, the statute of limitations on personal injury claims is two years starting on the date an injury occurs. Two years is the common standard throughout the U.S., but some states allow three years or more or assign different statutes of limitations to different types of personal injury claims.

The two years starts on the date of an injury, but some factors may delay or “toll” this statute and cause it to start at a later date. California upholds the discovery rule in the event an injured person cannot immediately determine the cause of his or her injuries or cannot immediately identify the liable party. The discovery rule can also apply for injuries or illnesses that do not have immediately noticeable symptoms, such as cancer that develops over several years. However, the discovery rule places a de facto one-year statute of limitations on a personal injury claim; the plaintiff has one year from the discovery of an injury to take legal action.

Anyone who notices adverse medical symptoms or injury symptoms should seek prompt medical care. The statute of limitations would likely begin on the date a victim notices his or her symptoms, not on the date he or she receives a diagnosis for those symptoms. The court system upholds an onus of personal responsibility on reasonable adults to track their personal health and investigate any negative symptoms with reasonable diligence.

Failing to meet the statute of limitations could lead to the defendant obtaining a case dismissal. An injured plaintiff who allows injury symptoms to persist without investigating their cause risks missing the available statute of limitations for taking legal action. If a plaintiff fails to take legal action within the applicable statute of limitations, the plaintiff will likely lose his or her chance for economic recovery.

Other Statutes of Limitations

The statute of limitations in California may also vary depending on the defendant in a claim. For example, filing a personal injury claim against a city or state government office must meet a six-month statute of limitations. Plaintiffs with these claims must also meet strict procedural rules and may face limitations on the amount of recovery available from such claims.

California imposes other statutes of limitations for specific case types.

  • Breach of written contract lawsuits must meet a four-year statute of limitations starting on the date one of the contract parties broke the contract.
  • Breach of oral contract lawsuits must meet a two-year statute of limitations.
  • Property damage liability claims fall under a three-year statute of limitations starting on the date the property damage occurred.

Ultimately, various individual factors can influence the start and end times of the statute of limitations for any personal injury case.

Tips for Meeting Your Statute of Limitations

Time is a critical factor in any lawsuit for numerous reasons, but one of the most important is ensuring the plaintiff meets the applicable statute of limitations. As soon as you suspect another party caused an injury to you or a loved one, seek out an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss your options for legal recourse. Once an attorney has the specific details of your situation, he or she can help you better understand how and when the statute of limitations applies to your claim, what type of experience you could expect by filing a claim, and the potential recovery available for your damages.