What is the California Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury?

After a personal injury accident, the next step is usually seeking medical attention for any injuries. After recovering or while in recovery, you can file an action for damages against the party that didn’t conduct themselves with reasonable care. However, a potential plaintiff may not know that a personal injury action is time-sensitive.

This time sensitivity is often the effect of a Statute of Limitations. Civil statutes often dictate a statutory period within which you must bring a claim. However, an experienced attorney will be well acquainted with limitations laws. That’s why you should reach out to the lawyers at McDonald Worley Law Firm to represent you.

What Is a Personal Injury?

Personal injury law is one of the most significant sources of legal disputes. Therefore, before exploring the Statutes of Limitations applicable to this field, it’ll be best to set forth and understand what a personal injury is.

A personal injury is a wound to the body, mind, and emotions of a person. This is the opposite of real property damage and other property losses. Personal injuries also go beyond mere bodily wounds.

Thus, personal injury law is a field of law that imposes civil liability on persons for injuries they cause others. They can inflict these carelessly, recklessly, intentionally, or by omissions. Sources of personal injuries include:

  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Premises liability (unsafe environments).
  • Slip/trip and falls (from liquids on the floor)
  • Defective products
  • Pet and dog bites.
  • Negligent conduct
  • Construction site accidents
  • Medical malpractice
  • Assault and battery
  • Wrongful death

If you succeed in a personal injury claim, you can recover economic and non-economic damages.. Economic damages usually replace the monetary amounts you lost because of the accident or other injury sources. Conversely, non-economic damages cater for losses that the courts can easily quantify in financial terms. The court can even grant punitive damages against the fault party for their very offensive conduct.

What Is a Personal Injury Statute of Limitations?

A Statute of Limitation prescribes the period of time within which you must make legal claims. Most American states have Statutes of Limitations governing civil actions. It’s usually a two-year deadline.

If you initiate your personal injury action beyond the statutory period, you may lose your right to compensatory damages. Therefore, it’s best to stay within the time period your state prescribes.

Furthermore, the statutory period varies depending on the personal injury action type. For instance, the time frame for property claims may differ from that of physical injury. Since statutory periods are an essential element in the injury claims process, it would help to acquaint yourself with them.

Reasons for Statutes of Limitations

There are valid reasons for which states impose Statute of Limitations. Some of them include:

  • The Unfairness Theory: This theory generally believes that it’s unfair to bring actions against people for things they did too long ago. They may have also lost the necessary tools with which to defend themselves in the personal injury action.
  • Preservation of Evidence: Personal injury statutes also aim to protect the evidence in action for negligence. If you file a claim late, you may lose relevant evidence to prove your claim, and witnesses may die. Furthermore, if it’s eyewitness testimony, the witnesses’ memory may fade and become unreliable. Consequently, any inconsistencies in testimony can be fatal to your case.

What Is the California Statute of Limitations for Negligence?

Many times, a personal injury lawsuit is an action for negligence. You’re essentially alleging through your personal injury lawyer that the fault party owed you a duty of care.. Furthermore, they didn’t exercise reasonable care in their conduct. Consequently, the accident caused you physical injury and real property damage, hence the action against the defendant.

For such personal injury claims, California has a Statute of Limitations that specifies time limits within which you must initiate your action for negligence. California Code of Civil Procedure section 335.1 prescribes a two-year period for filing a claim for a personal injury accident.  

This two-year statute applies to any legal action arising because of an accident-related injury caused by another person’s wrongful conduct or neglect. Your time usually starts counting from the date of the injury. However, sometimes, the injured party doesn’t discover the damage until after a while.

If the discovery of harm happens late, you’ll have a different time limit. This is called the discovery rule. For instance, you may discover that you suffered an internal injury from an accident one month later. In this case, because of the delayed discovery, you’ll have a different time limit. In California time limit for delayed discovery is one year from the date of discovery of harm.

What Is the Statute of Limitations for Claims Against the Government?

It’s not only a private party that can cause bodily injury and other personal injuries. A public entity such as a government office can also be liable for personal injuries. Therefore, a government claim is subject to a different Statute of Limitations. Firstly, you can’t just sue a public entity. There are certain procedures you must follow before getting to court.

Based on California Government Code section 911, you must first file an administrative claim with the government office that wronged you. This is an essential element to your injury claim. You must file it within six months of the injury event. An administrative claim essentially allows the public office or entity to investigate and remedy the wrong you suffered.

After receiving your claim, the government must respond within 45 days. If the government entity denies your claim in those 45 days, you can sue in court. However, you also have a limited time frame. You must go to court six months from the day you received your denial letter.

Furthermore, in some cases, the government office may not reply to your administrative claim. It could be that they ignored you or they lost your letter. Whatever the reason, if you receive no reply, you can file a lawsuit two years from the day the accident occurred. It would appear that government claims are more time-sensitive than other personal injury claim types.

What Is the Tolling of Statute of Limitations?

If you don’t file a timely action for breach of duty of care in personal injury cases, the courts may bar you from recovering both economic and non-economic damages. However, this isn’t always the case. There are some exceptions to the California Personal Injury Statute of Limitations. That is, your statutory time period can be tolled for a while for certain reasons.

Tolling of a Statute of Limitations means that your statutory period for your case was suspended. After a while, it begins to count again. There are at least five scenarios where a Statute of Limitations applying to your case will be tolled in California. They include:

  • Where the potential plaintiff is a minor, or under the age of 18.
  • Where the plaintiff is legally insane.
  • “Defendant unavailable” scenarios. This is often the case where the defendant is out of the state. In such a case, reasonable persons won’t expect you to file a claim in their absence.
  • Another “defendant unavailable” situation because the defendant is serving a legally imposed prison sentence.

What Is Emergency Rule 9?

Emergency Rule 9 is a set of California Rules that toll some cases because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The California State Judicial Council adopted these Rules on April 6, 2020. Rule 9 suspends all Statutes of Limitations for civil suits in California courts until 90 days after the Governor suspended the Covid-19 state of emergency.

Furthermore, in May 2020, the Judicial Council amended the Rule beyond the state of emergency. Now, Rule 9 will restart the Statute of Limitations on particular dates. It’ll also suspend all Statute of Limitations for civil claims from April 6 to October 1 provided they:

  • Exceed 180 days, or
  • Involve a time frame of 180 days or more

Is a Delayed Insurance Claim an Exception to the Statute of Limitations?

You don’t have to go to trial for a personal injury. An injured party can receive compensation through a personal injury settlement. Many personal injury claims are settled out of court.. For instance, you can file an insurance claim either with your insurer or the fault party’s. If you have sufficient evidence and an experienced attorney, the insurance adjuster can offer a fair settlement for your losses.

However, in some cases, an insurance company can stall settlement negotiations. This is dangerous because if settlement talks drag on for long and you don’t reach an agreement until after the statutory period expires, you won’t have a remedy in court. Essentially, delayed settlement negotiations aren’t exceptions to the California Statutes of Limitations.

Therefore, it’s best to ensure that you end negotiations and go to court if your time limit is drawing near. That’s why it’s best to hire a personal injury attorney.. They can easily notice when an insurance company isn’t negotiating in good faith and proceed to court.

Finally, the threat of an actual institution of an injury claim can force the insurance agent to settle. This is usually the case where you have significant evidence to prove your claim in court.

California Personal Injury Attorneys Are at Your Service!

Clearly, the success of a civil lawsuit isn’t solely dependent on proving the breach of a duty of care. An injured person must approach the court early after the injury event; else, they lose their rights to sue. Therefore, it’ll be best to hire a personal injury attorney who can offer legal advice and guidance..

The lawyers at McDonald Worley Law Firm are best qualified for this role. Our attorneys have spent multiple years providing solutions to legal issues within an accurate time frame. If you call our law offices now, we can initiate legal action for you before it’s too late.


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