What You Need to Know About Personal Injury Statute of Limitations in California

A crucial step before filing a personal injury claim is to check which statute of limitation pertains to your case. It can be easy to overlook the importance of timeliness when filing a lawsuit. However, the statute of limitations has a great impact on a case because missing a filing date may cost your recovery of damages. Here’s everything you need to know about California’s statutes of limitations.

What is a statute of limitations?

The statute of limitations is the law that sets a “prescription period,” or a time limit for an injured party to file a lawsuit. The deadline to file a claim is crucial and often varies depending on the jurisdiction and the type of claim the individual is dealing with. After the specified time on a case has run out, the claim is no longer valid which means that the case may not be brought to court.

Generally, the standard statute of limitations clock will start to count on the date on which the injury has occurred. The period in which individuals can file a lawsuit will depend on the type of legal claim and the state that they are in. Here are some common statutes of limitations in California (Cal.Civ.Proc.Code §312 et seq.)

  • Personal injury: Two years from the injury. If the injury was not discovered right away, then it is 1 year from the date the injury was discovered.
  • Breach of a written contract:  Four years from the date the contract was broken.
  • Breach of an oral contract: Two years from the date the contract was broken.
  • Property damage: Three years from the date the damage occurred.
  • Claims against government agencies: You must file a claim with the agency within 6 months (for some cases, 1 year) of the incident.

Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations: “ Discovery Rule”

What if the individual is unaware of an occurring injury or harm? The statute of limitations recognizes the possibility of scenarios in which exceptions are needed. For example, in some instances, an injured person did become aware of the injury until after the deadline for filing the lawsuit had passed. In such cases, the Discovery Rule may be applied and will typically delay when the statute’s clock begins to run. Therefore, individuals may receive an extended deadline period for filing the case.

Under the Discovery Rule, the statute of limitations may begin on the date;

  • The injury was discovered or
  • The date on which it should have been discovered.

What is the statute of limitations for personal injury claims in California?

In California, the statute of limitations sets a two-year time period from the date of injury for the during which a plaintiff may file a personal injury lawsuit. Under California Code of Civil Procedure section 335.1, an injury to a person is “an action for assault, battery, or injury to, or for the death of, an individual caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another”. Additionally, in most personal injury cases, the plaintiff can still sue the defendant regardless of their negligence or intention to harm.

Claims against government agencies

What is the California statute of limitations for personal injury claims against government agencies? Suing a government agency requires the individual to file a special claim called an administrative claim. Once an administrative claim has been filed with the government then it may be filed in court. Unlike personal injury lawsuits, government claims must be filed using the government’s form.

  • Claims against any California government agency on the city, county, or state levels have a deadline of six months (180 days) since the incident to file their case.
  • Claims against any California government concerning breach of contract and real property damage, administrative claims must be filed within 1 year of the date the contract was broken or the real property damage occurred.

After a claim has been filed, the government will have a 45 day period to respond. In response, individuals can expect two scenarios;

  • The claim was denied. Individuals have 6 months from the date of receiving the denial to file a lawsuit in court
  • The claim was accepted. Individuals will have 2 years to file the claim from the day the incident occurred.

The statute of limitations for government claims can be very complex. Hence, the plaintiffs must follow the steps of an enforced procedure in order to maximize the chance of winning their claim.

What is “Tolling” Under The Statute of Limitations?

Under certain circumstances, the statutory deadline to claim personal injury may be delayed under the discovery rule. In some cases, the statute of limitations may also be “tolled,” or be paused temporarily before the clock begins to start again. This provision grants the injured party an extended time period to file a lawsuit. The statutes of limitations may be tolled under various instances. For example, the parties lack legal capacity: a minor, or a person with mental illness, or the parties are out of state or in prison. The toll on the statutes will be removed and the clock will resume counting as soon as the circumstances are fixed. If the injured individual is a minor, the statutory deadline will resume once the individual becomes 18 years of age.

What type of compensation can I receive for my injuries?

Damages are awards granted to an injured party to compensate for the damages that have been incurred. Once a personal injury lawsuit has successfully been brought up in court, the final step is to assess and determine the type of damage the injured party is entitled to receive. Generally, there are two types of damages; compensatory damages and punitive damages.

What Are Compensatory Damages?

Compensatory damages are monetary awards paid by the wrongdoer to compensate for any injury and or losses that the plaintiff has incurred from the case. The award is primarily designed to restore the plaintiff to the previous state they were in before the accident. Moreover, compensatory damages can be further broken down into two sub-categories;

Economic compensatory damages are compensation that concerns actual monetary losses, such as;

  • Medical, future medical, and rehabilitation cost
  • Loss of past and future earnings
  • Costs of repair or replacement
  • Loss of employment/business opportunity

Non-economic compensatory damages are compensation that concerns non-monetary losses, such as;

  • Pain
  • Suffering
  • Emotional trauma including depression and PTSD
  • Inconvenience

What Are Punitive Damages?

In contrast, punitive damages are monetary awards intended to serve as a punishment and to deter wrongdoers from committing the same action. This type of award is typically granted when courts deem that compensatory damages are not enough to fully make the injured party whole.

Contact Pride Legal

If you or a loved one is a victim of a personal injury, we invite you to contact us at Pride Legal for legal counseling or any further questions. To protect your rights, hire someone who understands them.