When you get hurt, the last thing on your mind is how long you have to file a lawsuit. But it is something you need to be aware of because you have only a limited amount of time to file a bodily injury claim in California.
Like all states, California limits the amount of time you have to file different kinds of claims. The “statute of limitations” is the legal name for this filing window. If you fail to file your claim within this timeframe, you will likely be barred from filing the claim at all.
The statute of limitations differs according to the type of claim being filed. It also depends on other factors such as the ages of the parties involved, whether they are in-state, in prison, or able to face a jury.
We have created this short guide on the California statute of limitations for bodily injury claims to help you decide when the right time is to file your claim.
How Much Time Do You Have In Statute of Limitations for Injury?
The statute of limitations for bodily injury in California is two years from the date of the injury. A person with a broken bone from a car wreck, for example, generally has two years from the date of the accident to file a claim. But what if you don’t discover the injury soon after the car accident?
The Delayed Discovery Rule
Let’s say you were in a car accident, but you felt fine afterward. You even got an x-ray, and everything seemed normal. But as time went on, you started to feel weak and lethargic.
You suspected it might have something to do with the lingering effect of the accident. A trip to the hospital reveals a rupture that has slowly been causing you to lose blood. In this case, the delayed discovery rule might come into play.
The delayed discovery rule pauses (the legal term is “tolls”) the running of the statute of limitations until the injury is reasonably discovered. It is important to note, however, the rule applies only to certain delays. Specifically, the rule applies only if you did not know of the facts leading to the injury or about the injury itself.
The key here is that the delay has to have been reasonable. So if you should have discovered the injury, but did not do so, you may not be able to argue that the statute of limitations should be tolled.
Another example. Let’s say you get injured on the job. Your ankle begins to swell, but you ignore it.
As time goes on, your ankle swells more and more, but you don’t seek medical help. You finally seek medical attention when you can no longer walk. It is hard to argue that the statute of limitations should be tolled in situations like this when you should have known you were hurt.
There are other reasons for the tolling of the statute of limitations. The statute is tolled until minor defendants turn 18. It may also toll if the defendant is out of state, in prison, or legally insane.
Claims Against the Government
Claims against government entities have their own statute of limitations. You usually need to file bodily injury claims against a California governmental agency or employee within six months.
For example, if a police officer negligently discharged his firearm and hit you in the arm, you have only six months from the date of the injury to file your claim. Waiting too long will probably bar your claim.
Wrongful death claims also have a two-year statute of limitations. These claims are usually subject to the same tolling limitations as personal injury claims. The surviving relatives or the estate may bring a wrongful death claim.
So if your spouse or relative were killed in an accident, you would have two years to file the claim. Like injury claims, wrongful death can be tolled under certain circumstances.
Medical malpractice claims are a bit different. The statute of limitations for these claims is one year. Like bodily injury claims, the delayed discovery rule may apply.
But even then, waiting too long to get an examination can affect your claim. You can toll a medical malpractice claim for up to three years.
Cases involving fraud, intentional concealment, or possibly the presence of a foreign body in the victim may have a longer tolling period. Claims on behalf of a minor under the age of six should be filed before the minor’s eighth birthday.
Known (or “patent”) defects to real property are those that should be reasonably discovered. If you would not have reasonably discovered the defect, it may be latent. You have two years to file a claim relating to a patent defect. Latent defects should be brought within 10 years.
Are Statutes of Limitations Fair?
The restrictions on when you can file a bodily injury claim in California may seem unfair. While this is understandable, there are reasons for a statute of limitations. These restrictions are typically put in place because waiting too long can make claims murkier and harder to prove.
Still, the tight restrictions on medical and government claims can be frustrating. It’s a good idea to file your claim sooner rather than later to avoid running past the California bodily injury statute of limitations.
Contact a California Personal Injury Attorney Today
The California statute of limitations for bodily injury claims is shorter than people expect. Waiting too long can cost you dearly.
Don’t assume that you have years to file your claim. In some cases, you only have months. You have gone through enough already, don’t let your claim pass you by. An experienced personal injury attorney can help.
The Saeedian Law Group wants to help. Our staff understands the intricacies of personal injury claims. And we know how to get results.
Our accident attorneys know how to work within the confines of the California bodily injury statute of limitations. Clients come first at our firm. That’s why our compassionate team wants to fight for your fair settlement. Contact our firm today for your free consultation.