What Is the Car Accident Statute of Limitations in California?

Car accident involving two cars

In the immediate aftermath of a car accident, the last thing you may want to deal with is pursuing legal action. We understand that you may want to concentrate on the health and wellbeing of you and your family. However, depending on the severity of the injuries you or your loved ones suffered, the financial help you need to cover associated costs could depend on the results of your personal injury claim. Unfortunately, if you wait too long after the accident, you may run out of time to file a claim. This is due to the car accident statute of limitations in California.

What Is a Statute of Limitations?

A statute of limitations is a law that sets a time limit for how long someone can file a lawsuit. Immediately after a car accident, a “clock” starts, or a time limit on how long you have to file a lawsuit. After a car accident, it is important to reach out to a car accident attorney to discuss whether you have a viable claim.

Car Accident Statute of Limitations in California

Generally, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims after a car accident in California is two years from the date of the accident. This means that you have two years from the date of your accident to file a lawsuit against the individual or entity responsible for your injuries.

However, there are exceptions to the car accident statute of limitations in California. Some exceptions include:

  • Governmental entity. If your accident involved a government entity, then the statute of limitations is six months from the date of the accident.
  • Wrongful death. If you lost a loved one in a car crash, then you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit. California’s wrongful death statute of limitations is two years from the date of death. This date may be the same or different from the date of the car accident.
  • Injured victim is a minor. If the injury victim is 18, then the time limit to file a claim will not begin until the victim turns 18. Then, the victim has two years to file a claim after turning 18.
  • Property damage. If the car accident resulted only in property damage, then you typically have three years from the date of the accident to file a property damage claim.

What If I Missed the Car Accident Statute of Limitations Deadline?

Generally, if you try to file outside of the statute of limitations, your claim will be considered invalid and your case will be dismissed. However, speak to an experienced car accident lawyer about your situation. During a free consultation, our Modesto car accident lawyers can help you determine whether you have legal options.

In some cases, a person may not know that his or her injury is as severe as it actually is until months or even years after suffering the injury. This can mean that the car accident statute of limitations could run out before he or she realizes that he or she has a personal injury claim.

California has a “delayed discovery” or “discovery” rule that allows people to file personal injury lawsuits after the two-year statute of limitations. This may apply if an individual did not know that he or she was injured or did not know the full extent of his or her injuries until after the statute of limitations had run out. In such cases, a person has one year from when he or she discovers the injury to file a lawsuit.

How Can Filing a Car Accident Claim Help Me?

Our Modesto car accident lawyers recommend that you speak to an experienced car accident attorney about your situation. You want to leave yourself plenty of time to file a lawsuit if needed. Our Modesto car accident attorneys can discuss your legal options with you for filing a claim.

We understand that after a serious accident, medical bills and lost wages can add up. Recovering compensation after an accident can help you pay for:

  • Medical bills
  • Rehabilitation expenses
  • Loss of income (if the injury prevents you from working)
  • Funeral expenses
  • Pain and suffering

Contact Our Modesto Car Accident Lawyers

If you have questions about your options after a car accident in California, call Arata, Swingle Van Egmond & Heitlinger today. Our car accident lawyers represent clients in Modesto, Trulock and throughout Stanislaus County. Call us today at (209) 522-2211 or fill out our confidential online contact form to get started.