If someone else’s actions or failure to act responsibly harms you, one way you may be able to receive compensation for your injuries is by filing a personal injury lawsuit against them. However, time is limited to take legal action. California gives accident victims a fixed amount of time to file a claim for compensation. This time period is called the statute of limitations. Understanding the statute of limitations for your personal injury case is vital. Miss the cutoff, and you might lose your rights to compensation entirely.
What is the Statute of Limitations?
The statute of limitations for personal injury claims is two years from the accident or injury in California. Some exceptions can modify this timeframe, but two years is the default. After that period passes, your legal right to sue the other party ends.
Two years seems like plenty of time, it’s vital that you contact a personal injury attorney right away to get the process started and protect your legal rights. The faster your lawyer can gather evidence to secure your claim, the sooner it can be filed.
Can I Still Sue After the Statute of Limitations Passes?
You can still file a personal injury claim even if the statute of limitations has passed, but doing so is often destined to fail. That’s because defendants will typically use expiration as a defense to have the suit dismissed. Short of some exceptions detailed by state law, there’s no course of action you can take to change this.
In addition to this, the personal injury statute of limitations applies to settlements, also. As a whole, the law stops you from pursuing damages after two years have passed. The defendant will have no requirement or responsibility to settle with you outside that period of time.
What Are the Exceptions?
California recognizes that some circumstances can keep you from making your legal claim within the defined time frame. To maintain the fairness that the statute of limitations establishes, some cases can alter this timeframe 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 instances where you don’t realize you are immediately injured or that someone else’s negligence led to your accident. With these cases, 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 happens if the would-be defendant leaves the state before you file. Because you can’t serve the defendant, the claim can’t proceed. To compensate for this, the statute of limitations quits running while the other party is out of California. The defendant might experience more potential legal issues when they return to California, too.
When you initially reach out to a personal injury attorney, 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. Various extensions exist, covering a variety of situations. A knowledgeable California personal injury lawyer will work with you to stay abreast of the situation and identify these as they arise.
A personal injury case requires a lot of time, effort, and skill to give your claim the best possible opportunity of success. You need to quickly collect the necessary evidence, build a convincing case against the responsible parties, participate in sensitive negotiations, and also possibly try your case before a judge or jury. This is what personal injury lawyers do every day. We provide a thoughtful approach to personal injury claims and help you obtain the compensation you are entitled to while you focus on your recovery.