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What Are the Statutes of Limitations for Personal Injury Law in California?

If you plan on filing a personal injury lawsuit in California, do you know how much time state law gives you to take action? If you wait too long, your right to collect damages will expire. To file, it is important to know the statutes of limitations for personal injury law in the state of California. 

California law can easily overwhelm individuals when trying to navigate complex legal language, stipulations and limitations on what you can do and when. At Hann Law, we understand that it can be difficult to handle on your own.

In this article, we’ll go over what the statute of limitation is, what exceptions to the rule exist, and other necessary information so that you are better prepared to file your personal injury lawsuit in California. 

What is the Statute of Limitations?

The statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits is two years from the accident or injury in California. Some exceptions can alter this timeframe (explained below), but two years is the default. After that period passes, your legal right to sue the other party expires.

Two years seems like plenty of time, it’s essential that you contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible to get the process started and secure your rights. The sooner your attorney can gather evidence to secure your case, the sooner it can be filed. 

Can I Still Sue After the Statute of Limitations Passes?

You can still file a personal injury lawsuit even if the statute of limitations has passed, but doing so is often doomed to fail. That’s because defendants will usually use expiration as a defense to have the case dismissed. Short of some exceptions outlined by state law, there’s no course of action you can take to change this.

On top of this, the personal injury statute of limitations applies to settlements, too. As a whole, the law prevents you from seeking damages after two years have passed. The defendant will have no pressure or obligation to settle with you outside that window of time. 

What Are the Exceptions?

California recognizes that certain circumstances can prevent you from making your legal claim within the specified time frame. To maintain the fairness that the statute of limitations establishes, some situations can alter this window by delaying when the two-year period starts or by putting it on hold temporarily. 

The most common of these is called delayed discovery. The rule addresses situations where you don’t realize you are immediately injured or that someone else’s negligence caused your accident. With these instances, the statute of limitations begins when you discover that you’re injured or become aware of the other party’s negligence.

Another type of extension occurs if the would-be defendant leaves the state before you file. Since you can’t serve the defendant, the lawsuit can’t proceed. To compensate for this, the statute of limitations stops running while the other party is outside California. The defendant could face more potential legal problems when they return to California, too.

When you initially reach out to a personal injury lawyer, they’ll spend time analyzing your case to see if you have a valid claim. However, they can also assess if any extensions apply to your ability to file. Numerous extensions exist, covering a wide range of scenarios. A knowledgeable attorney will work with you to stay abreast of the situation and identify these as they arise. 

What About Suing a Government Entity?

Personal injury claims against local or state government entities in California are possible but work somewhat differently. First, your injury must be the result of that entity’s negligence. For example, you suffer an injury due to a poorly maintained government building. Second, your lawsuit must follow a specific sequence of actions.

Instead of immediately filing a personal injury lawsuit against the government, you must file an administrative claim first. Doing so is the precursor to everything else, and you must file within six months of your physical injury. Once you’ve filed, the entity has forty-five days to respond to your claim. 

If they don’t respond, you can file your lawsuit within two years of when you were injured (the standard statute of limitations). If they deny your claim, you can still file,  but you must do so within six months of the denial.

Do Malpractice Claims Fall Under Personal Injury?

While medical malpractice can lead to personal injury, the law treats them as their own type of lawsuit. As a result, they have a separate statute of limitations (one year instead of two) and their own unique restrictions. 

If you’re looking at the possibility of suing for malpractice, be sure that your lawyer has experience handling these types of cases. Though malpractice claims have many similarities to personal injury claims, they also carry significant differences.

Hann Law Firm Can Help

If you have been injured in an accident in California and would like to learn more about your legal rights, Hann Law Firm is here to help. 

We provide a thoughtful approach to personal injury cases and help you get the compensation you need while you focus on your recovery. We are seasoned litigators who know how to win – Contact us today to find out how we can help you get the justice you deserve.

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