Understanding Statute Of Limitations For Personal Injury Claims In CA

Published on 11/18/2023 by Monica Burneikis

The term statute of limitations refers to the length of time a victim/plaintiff has to file their claim in court after an event occurred. These limitations vary, depending on the type of case. 

The statute of limitations for the majority of California's personal injury cases, including car accidents, is two years

Do Not Let The Statute Of Limitations For Your Personal Injury Claim Expire

All too often, clients approach personal injury attorneys close to or just after the statute of limitations has run. When the potential client is asked why they waited so long to call an attorney, the answer always seems to be that the client did not appreciate the amount of time that had passed since the accident. This is especially true if the client sustained mild to moderate injuries.

This is especially true in cases involving trip-and-fall or slip-and-fall accidents. Even victims of car accidents may feel relatively fine for a while, only to learn that injury to their head, neck, or spine did more damage than they realized, leading to chronic pain or long-term limited function.

Exceptions To The Two-Year Statute Of Limitations

Typically, the clock for the two-year statute of limitations for personal injury claims in California starts on the date of the accident. However, there are some exceptions:

  • Statutes of limitations are more restrictive if the at-fault party is a municipality, city, or state government, etc. In these cases, the statute of limitations is only six months. In these cases, a claim must be filed with the responsible governmental entity no later than six months after the incident occurred.
  • The limitations period for cases involving medical negligence (i.e., medical malpractice) is one year after you discovered or should have with the use of reasonable diligence discovered, the injury, or three years after the date of the incident, whichever occurs first.

These truncated time limits are another reminder of the importance of consulting with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible after suffering an injury to ensure your rights are protected from the beginning.

Schedule A Consultation With A Personal Injury Attorney After Any Type Of Accident

If you are involved in any type of accident, we highly recommend scheduling a consultation with a personal injury attorney. Most offer free, no-obligation 30-minute consultations. These consults are invaluable because you will learn:

  • What to do to protect yourself if the accident causes unanticipated long-term effects.
  • What questions to ask your physician during a post-accident medical exam.
  • How to create trustworthy documentation/evidence.
  • How to deal with the insurance companies.

In some cases, the attorney may let you know there is nothing to pursue at the moment, but will also provide information about what to pay attention to in case side effects show up in the future.

Understanding Comparable Negligence Laws

Sometimes, victims do not pursue personal injury lawsuits because they feel they are partially at fault. It is important to understand that even if a person shares some percentage of fault, they may still be protected thanks to California’s comparable negligence laws. These laws divide fault in an accident by percentages. 

For example, if you trip and fall on a slick floor that was clearly marked “Wet” or “Slippery Floor,” under the comparable negligence law guidelines, you may still be entitled to a proportional payout based on your percentage of fault. Depending on the extent of your injuries and long-term effects, the money you receive may be substantial enough to alleviate the financial burdens.

Time is of the essence for valid personal injury evidence

Two years may seem like a long time, but it goes by quickly. Regardless of whether you think you have a personal injury case or not, do not wait to begin assembling medical information, recording benchmarks in your treatment, and related documentation. This process should happen immediately after an accident so that no detail is missed. 

The longer you wait to write down what you remember in vivid detail, the less reliable your memory will be. Also, insurance companies and defense attorneys view lapses in treatment as a sign that you were not actually injured. The rationale: if you were truly injured, you would have gone to the doctor.

The more proof and documentation you have about your accident, the better Below are some tips for documenting your claim:

  • Take pictures of the accident site, signage, the surrounding environment, etc.
  • Get witness contacts when/if possible and record or document their statements if you can.
  • Write down everything you remember before, during, and after the accident - including who said what.
  • Seek medical attention immediately and regularly to provide benchmark imaging and physician assessments, which become part of your medical record and can be retrieved if necessary later on. 

Whether you pursue a suit tomorrow, in a few weeks, or in a year, your documentation and evidence will be more relevant the closer it was compiled to the accident time and date.

Burneikis Law Firm Is Here To Walk You Through A Personal Injury Claim

Do not wait longer than you should to file your personal injury lawsuit. You do not want to come up against statutes of limitation that make the process more stressful or compressed than it needs to be.

Contact Burneikis Law and take advantage of our free, no-obligation consultation. We are always happy to provide recommendations and advice for anyone who seeks support from our office. If we feel you have a case, we will be there to guide you every step of the way. If not, we will let you know how to document the situation and what signs or indicators to look for so you know when it is time to call us again.

Monica Burneikis - Oakland Personal Injury Attorney
Monica Burneikis has been an accident and personal injury lawyer for over 15 years. She knows what it takes to fight with insurance companies in order to obtain maximum compensation for injury victims and their families.
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