What is the Statute of Limitations for California Car Accidents?

If you've been injured in a car accident, it's important to make a claim for damages before the statute of limitations passes.

Being involved with a car accident completely disrupts your life. Even in the best case scenario where the only thing damaged is your car, you can still have a lot of paperwork to deal with and have a difficult time getting around town while your car is in the shop. But if you’ve been injured, you need to worry about taking care of yourself, you might not be able to work, and there are insurance companies to deal with. 

With so many things accident victims suddenly have to deal with, they might not be able to think about filing a lawsuit immediately after an accident. But if filing a lawsuit is even a possibility for you, it’s very important to be aware of the statute of limitations that apply to your case. If the statute of limitations has passed, you will be unable to make a claim for damages. 

Under California law, there is a two-year statute of limitations for lawsuits to be filed over injuries caused by a car accident. This applies whether you were the occupant of a car, a bicyclist, a pedestrian, or a motorcyclist. But when exactly does that two-year timeframe begin? It depends. If your accident involved non-fatal injuries, the two-year time limit begins on the date that the accident occurred. However, if the accident was fatal and you’re making a wrongful death claim, the two-year statute of limitations begins on the date of death, which might not necessarily be the same date of the crash. If a car accident only resulted in property damage and you’d like to go after the at-fault driver to recover your damages, California law has a three-year statute of limitations that applies.

Exceptions to California’s Statute of Limitations

Even though the two-year statute of limitations applies to many car accident cases, there are some exceptions. One of those exceptions is if an injured person was a minor at the time of the car accident. When minors are involved, the two-year statute of limitations doesn’t begin until the minor turns 18. 

Another exception may be possible if an injury isn’t detected right away after a car accident. Some types of injuries caused by car accidents can be difficult to detect and people who have been injured often don’t begin showing symptoms until some time after the accident. Soft tissue injuries, for example, are notoriously hard to detect and commonly have delayed symptoms. In these types of cases, the two-year statute of limitations would begin on the date that the injury was discovered.

Statute of Limitations on Car Accidents Involving Government Vehicles

If your car accident involved a government employee (state, local, or federal) who was acting in the scope of their job at the time of the accident, it’s extremely important to act quickly because the rules for those types of cases are very strict. These types of cases can involve city buses, sanitation trucks, fire trucks, and government-owned cars being driven by a government employee. California law requires that a notice of claim be made within six months of the accident.

Because of the limitations involved with car accident cases, it’s extremely important to act quickly if you’ve been injured and get in touch with a car accident lawyer as soon as you’re able to. At The Wallace Firm, our experienced California car accident lawyers are ready to help with your case. Contact us today to get started.