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California’s Statute of Limitations Laws Pertaining to Personal Injury and Property Damage Claims

          Personal injury cases derive from a number of different occurrences such as car accidents, dog bites, or slip and falls. When someone has a personal injury case, whether caused by a car accident or a dog bite, it is crucial to know the time limitations set on bringing claims in the state of California.

         A lawsuit can be filed at any time after the date of injury and before the statute of limitations has expired. It is important to note that every state has its own standards, and the ones discussed and elaborated in further detail below apply to California.

1.) What is A Statute of Limitations?

         A statute of limitations is a law that puts a deadline on a person’s right to file a lawsuit. Generally, once the statute of limitations “runs out,” the injured party can no longer file a lawsuit. The time in which the injured party must file a lawsuit varies on the type of legal claim and who he or she is trying to sue. 

         Once the statute of limitations has passed, the injured party can no longer file a lawsuit against the defendant. Essentially, this means that the defendant and the insurance company have no incentive to offer any sort of settlement. The injured party will be left with no compensation whatsoever.

         While statutes of limitations vary between states and between the types of claims being brought, the way courts throughout the country calculate such limitation periods are consistent. Courts interpret a “one-year” statute of limitations to mean that the victim has one year from the date of the event’s occurrence to file a lawsuit.

         For example, if the applicable statute of limitations in California period is one-year, and the triggering event occurred on August 1, 2020, the victim will have until August 1, 2021 to file a lawsuit. If the victim files after August 1, 2021, the court will reject the lawsuit because it was untimely. If the last day to file a lawsuit before the statute of limitations runs falls on a Saturday, Sunday, a holiday, or on any other day in which the courthouse is otherwise closed for business for the entire day, then the last day to file is extended to the immediate next day that the court is open for business.

2.) Why is there A Statute of Limitations On California Personal Injury Claims?

         Although it is fair to want to hold negligent defendants liable for the injuries they caused, there are various reasons as to why this law exists.

         First, the California personal injury statute of limitations encourages everyone to bring their claims to court as quickly as possible. Avoidable delays are discouraged. This allows the courts to run more efficiently.

         Second, the law helps keep the insured’s case as strong as possible. Over time evidence tends to become weaker. Evidence can easily be destroyed or lost, and witnesses can forget important facts.

         Lastly, this law is enforced in pursuit of fairness. The defendant would not be unfairly prejudiced in that the defendant would have ample time to defend its case. Delayed filings also increases the likelihood of a defendant losing critical evidence.

3.) What are the Different Types of Legal Claims?

  • Personal injury against a person or business

  • Property damage against a person or business

  • Claims against a government agency, city, county, or state

4.) What are the Statute of Limitations and Requirements for the Different Types of Legal Claims?

Personal Injury.

        Personal injury refers to an injury to a person’s body, mind, or emotions. This can also include the wrongful death of a close family member. The most common types of personal injury cases are car accidents, however personal injury lawsuits also include slip and falls, dog bites, and much more. In California, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims is two years from the date the injury occurred. If a victim fails to file a lawsuit within this two-year period, he or she will have no opportunity to seek compensation for any of his or her physical injuries as a result of the incident.

Property Damage.

        Property damage is the damage or destruction to one’s car, personal property, or home. In California, the statute of limitations for a property damage claim is three years. If the victim fails to bring a claim in court within three years, he or she will no longer be able to bring a claim to recover for property damages thereafter.

Claims Against a Government Agency.

        California allows private citizens to bring a lawsuit where the government or its employees acted negligently and caused an injury. For a claim against a government agency, one must first file a special claim (an “administrative claim”) with the government office before the claim is filed in court. For a personal injury or property damage claim, the administrative claim must be filed within six (6) months of the date of injury.

         After the claim is filed, the government has forty-five (45) days to respond. If the government agency denies the claim during that period, the lawsuit must be filed in court within six (6) months from the date the denial was mailed or personally delivered to the injured person. If, however the injured person does not receive a rejection letter, the lawsuit must be filed within two (2) years from the day the incident occurred.

5.) Are there Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations Deadline?

        In some situations, the statute of limitations is “tolled.” Tolling is a time period in which the statute of limitations time period is paused. When a statute of limitations is tolled, the limitations period stops running, and only begins to run again once when the tolling event has concluded. The tolled interval is then tacked onto the end of the limitations period, and the deadline to file the lawsuit is extended. The statute of limitations may be tolled when the victim is:  

A minor under 18 years old.

Here, the victim’s limitations period begins on the day of his or her 18th birthday.

Suing an out-of-state defendant.

Absence from the state, in certain circumstances, is a ground for extending or tolling the statute of limitations, as long as the victim uses reasonable means to find the defendant.

Incapacitated.

The statute of limitations is suspended for as long as the mental incompetence continues. Incapacitation is the incapability of caring for his/her property or transacting business or understanding the nature or effect of his/her acts.

Legally insane.

The same principal that applies to incapacitated individuals applies here. The victim is suffering from a mental condition rendering them incapable to take care of themselves.

In prison.

Incarceration cannot toll the limitations for more than two years, unless the inmate is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

Once the condition that created the tolling period has ended, then the tolling period ends as well, and the statute of limitations begins to run or resumes.

Consult with an experienced attorney for more information

If you have further questions about the statute of limitations for personal injury in California and how it might affect your claim, consider calling an experienced attorney, such as C&B Law Group, for more information.

 

The attorney will analyze your case thoroughly, and advise you on what you should do to get the best results. C&B Law Group offers completely free consultations, allowing you to get the information you need without having to pay out of pocket.

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