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The Statute of Limitations of California Car Accident Claims

By Allen, Flatt, Ballidis & Leslie on December 21, 2019

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A statute of limitations is a time limit imposed by law for filing a lawsuit, after which your claim is barred. California has different statutes of limitations for different types of lawsuits. For example, it is one year for libel or slander, three years for fraud, and four years for the collection of rents. For personal injury matters, including car accidents, the statute of limitations is two years.

When Does the Clock Start on the Statute of Limitations?

The clock starts running on the statute of limitations for car accidents on the date the accident occurred. The exception is when the accident caused the death of the victim. In this case, the statute of limitations begins on the date the victim died. Surviving family members of the deceased have two years from the date of death to file a wrongful death claim in civil court.

What If an Injury Is Not Discovered Right Away?

Some car accident injuries may not be apparent immediately after the crash. For example, whiplash symptoms may not develop until several days have passed. Car accident victims who suffer traumatic brain injury may not notice specific symptoms for days or months after the injury, or until they resume their everyday lives, as stated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In cases such as this, the discovery rule exception applies. Under this exception, the statute of limitations begins when the injured person:

  • Knows or has sufficient notice that he or she was injured; and
  • Knows or has sufficient notice of the cause of harm.

A good example of the discovery rule exception involves a worker who was exposed to asbestos. At the time the exposure occurred, it is likely that he or she did not know asbestos exposure could cause harm. The injury may not have become apparent until approximately 20 years after exposure, when the worker developed a specific type of lung cancer that only comes from asbestos. Under the two-year personal injury statute of limitations, the injury claim of this person would be barred. With the discovery rule exception, however, the injured person has two years to file a lawsuit from the date he or she knew about the lung cancer and knew it was caused by the on-the-job asbestos exposure.

Does the Statute of Limitations Apply to a Car Accident Insurance Claim?

After a car accident with injuries caused by another party’s negligence, most injured people will try to settle the claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. Too often, the insurance company will make a low offer that is not enough to cover the victim’s damages. When that occurs, the only way to be fully compensated is to file a lawsuit in civil court, which must be done within the statute of limitations.

Get Legal Help from an Orange County Personal Injury Lawyer

If you have suffered serious injuries in a car accident caused by a negligent driver, it is in your best interest to speak with an experienced attorney right away. Our Orange County auto accident lawyers at Allen, Flatt, Ballidis & Leslie can:

  • Thoroughly investigate your car accident
  • Determine fault and liability
  • Fully assess your losses
  • Build a strong case based on the facts
  • Negotiate with insurance companies on your behalf
  • Pursue the compensation you deserve in court, if necessary

Call us today at (949) 752-7474. We offer a free consultation with no time limits or restrictions.

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Posted in: Car Accidents

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