How Long Do You Have To File a Car Accident Injury Claim?

If you’ve been injured in a car accident in California, your first thought is probably about your recovery and getting back to perfect health. While it is important to focus on your health after a car accident injury, you should know that you only have limited time to file an injury claim. 

If you don’t act fast enough, the window to recover damages for your injuries may pass. This is why, after an accident in which you sustain an injury, you should seek medical attention and legal counsel, as many scenarios may affect the relevant dates.

California gives injury victims two years from the date of their injury to file a personal injury lawsuit in court, with some exceptions. 

Every state has a statute of limitations in civil suits. A statute of limitations is the amount of time after an event in which legal proceedings can be initiated. In California, the statute of limitations for personal injury cases is two years from the date of the accident. However, this varies, depending on if a government entity is involved, or if there is a medical malpractice claim.

Courts are less likely to allow a late filed lawsuit which means that the possibility for recovery from injuries due to an automobile accident are slim.  You must hire a lawyer to see if the courts will give you relief to file a late claim if the defendant is a government entity.

Courts are less likely to allow individuals to file a late lawsuit. This means that any right to injury compensation may be lost.

One wrinkle in California’s civil statute of limitations law is that injury claims against a city, county, or government entity must be submitted—via the appropriate claim form—within six months from the date of the injury. Such a claim may come into play if you are involved in an accident with a city vehicle, such as a public bus, but you should always speak with an attorney about your options as soon as possible. 

Depending on the facts of your case, the statute of limitations may be tolled or temporarily suspended. Tolling may happen for a variety of reasons. A tolled claim may occur when the plaintiff (the person injured and subsequently filing a lawsuit) is:

  • A minor, or under the age of 18
  • Out of the state
  • In prison
  • Legally insane
  • On assignment out of the country for the military
  • Has been diagnosed with COVID-19 (Note: Some states and courts have allowed the statute of limitations to toll due to the coronavirus pandemic.  Check your local state rules and consult with a personal injury lawyer that understands the latest COVID-19 filing extensions, if any exist.)

When the reason for tolling ends—for example, a minor involved in an injury claims turns 18—the statute of limitations clock begins or resumes. In general, cases that involve tolling can be complicated. Get in touch with a personal injury lawyer who can help you understand the facts of your case. 

If you sustain an injury as the result of a car accident, try to seek medical help immediately. 

The immediate aftermath of a car accident can be scary and difficult. At first, you may be concerned with your car’s damage, the safety of any passengers, and with getting the other driver’s information. 

With so many things going on, you should not forget about your health. Even minor fender benders can cause serious, long-lasting pain. And if you are not at fault for the accident, or only partially at fault, then you may have legal right to pursue injury compensation. 

You should not delay medical attention. If you get medical help right away, you will have a record of your injury and may be able to prove that your injuries were the direct result of a car accident. 

You may notice the injury sometime after the accident. In any case, get medical help when you need it—establishing the facts of your injury can help your case and will determine how long you have to file a claim. As always, seek legal counsel as soon as possible.

* This blog is not meant to dispense legal advice and is not a comprehensive review of the facts, the law, this topic or cases related to the topic. For a full review of our disclaimer and policies, please click here.

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