How long after an accident can I make a claim in California? What is a statute of limitations?
The statute of limitations refers to the time period in which a lawsuit must be filed. Once the statute of limitations expires, the plaintiff is no longer able to bring their case to court. This time limit exists to prevent stale claims and to ensure that evidence and witnesses are still available to provide testimony. Let's take a closer look at deadlines for common types of civil (non-criminal) cases. This article only applies to private entities. When the defendant is part of the government, the rules are different. Note that for statutes of limitations of three years or more, the Covid 19 pandemic created an extension that may apply to your case and give you more time.
Personal Injury Cases
In California, the statute of limitations for personal injury cases is two years from the date of the injury. If you wait until after the two-year mark, you will be barred from pursuing legal action. This means you must either have a complete, finalized settlement OR have filed a lawsuit within two years.
It's worth noting that there are a few exceptions to this rule. In very limited cases, if the injury was not discovered until later, the statute of limitations may be extended.
Additionally, if the plaintiff is a minor, the statute of limitations is extended until the minor turns 18 years old.
Property Damage Cases
If you've suffered property damage and want to file a lawsuit in California, you have three years from the date of the damage to do so. This includes damage to your home, car, or other property.
Breach of Contract Cases
In California, the statute of limitations for breach of contract cases is four years from the date of the breach. This means that if someone has breached a contract with you, you have four years from the date of the breach to file a lawsuit. However, it's important to note that the clock starts ticking from the date of the breach, not from the date that the contract was signed.
If you believe that you've been a victim of fraud in California, you have three years from the date that you discovered the fraud to file a lawsuit. This is known as the "discovery rule" and is designed to give victims enough time to uncover the fraud and take legal action.
Medical Malpractice Cases
In California, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases is three years from the date of the injury OR one year from the date that the injury was discovered, whichever comes first.
There are some exceptions to the statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases that can extend the limit beyond three years. For example, if the healthcare provider committed fraud or intentionally concealed their wrongdoing, the statute of limitations may be extended.
Wrongful Death Cases
If you've lost a loved one due to the negligence of someone else, you have two years from the date of the person's death to file a wrongful death lawsuit in California. It's important to note that the clock starts ticking on the date of the person's death, not on the date of the accident or incident that caused their death.
The statute of limitations for civil cases in California can be complex and varies depending on the type of case. However, understanding these time limits is crucial if you believe that you've been wronged and want to pursue legal action. If you're unsure about the statute of limitations for your case, it's always best to consult with a qualified attorney who can help you navigate the legal system and protect your rights.