How Long Do You Have?
Few legal questions have simple answers. The amount of time you have to file a civil lawsuit depends on your situation. In California, there is a statute of limitations on personal injury cases. But the rules vary depending on your situation. Your best chance at learning your timeline is to speak with a personal injury lawyer.
For most personal injury claims, the deadline is two years. The time begins on the day of the accident or the date on which you discover the injury. However, claims for property damage have a longer statute of limitations. If your claim is only for recovering damaged property, you have three years to file.
You can file a personal injury claim against the government. However, this has a different statute of limitations than a regular claim. Typically, you only have six months to start the claims process. Then, the government has a 45-day period to decide how they will handle your claim.
If the government denies your claim, you have six months to file a lawsuit. But if they don’t respond, you automatically get two years to initiate the lawsuit. Claims against the government can be extremely difficult and comply with a unique set of rules. Therefore, you should only work with an attorney who has experience handling claims involving the government.
Claims against public entities could have even shorter deadlines. For instance, you could have a claim against the city for an injury you experienced on a city bus. In this case, the city may only give you three months to start the claims process.
Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations
There are some claims that could qualify you for an exception to the statute of limitations. However, this is rare.
One exception could occur if a minor was injured in the accident. In this case, a parent could file a claim for the child. Or, the child has until two years after they turn 18 to file the claim. The statute of limitations does not start until the child turn 18. Therefore, a child who is 10 at the time of the accident has 10 years to file.
Another exception could be in the case of medical malpractice. At times, the victims don’t realize the harm they experienced until months or years after the incident. Depending on the specifics of your situation, you may be able to file two years after you learn of the injury. Once again, you should speak to a legal professional.
What About Insurance Claims?
It’s important to realize that insurance claims differ greatly from personal injury claims. If you’re in a car accident, you should file an insurance claim as soon as possible. Typically, insurance companies only allow claimants to file several days or weeks after the accident.