Injuries resulting from accidents in California can be costly. They can impose significant and unanticipated financial, emotional, and mental stresses on a victim as he or she tries to recover. California permits injured victims to file personal injury claims against the person or persons who are responsible for causing the accident. However, California restricts the period of time in which such a claim may be filed.
Do I Need an Attorney After a Los Angeles Accident?
If you are injured in an accident you should contact an experienced Los Angeles personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. Filing a claim to recover damages may seem straightforward – especially if the injury was sustained in a Los Angeles car, motorcycle, or truck accident – if the defendant is an insurance company. However, insurance companies are tough competition and will do everything in their power to minimize – or deny – payouts to accident victims. A skilled personal injury attorney has the experience and knowledge necessary to thwart these attempts and maximize a client’s recovery.
A personal injury attorney will explain your legal rights and options. They will also explain the importance of filing a timely claim for damages. Failure to file a timely claim may result in an inability to recover anything at all. Contacting an attorney – even if you are not certain that you are going to file a claim – will ensure that you are aware of the specific time limitations for any claim(s) you may be interested in making.
Limited Time to File Claim for Damages in California
In California, claims for damages after a personal injury may only be filed within a certain period of time after an accident. This is known as the statute of limitations. Generally, the clock on the California statute of limitations begins to run as soon as the injury-causing accident or incident occurs. For example, if you are injured in a car accident the statute of limitations begins to run when the accident occurs. Claims to recover compensation for injuries resulting from that car accident must be filed within the proper period of time.
There are, however, exceptions to this rule. The statute of limitations may be tolled – or paused – under certain circumstances. In California, the personal injury statute of limitations may be tolled if (1) the injured party is a minor at the time of the accident; (2) the at-fault party is out-of-state or incarcerated; or (3) the at-fault party is mentally incapacitated or unfit to stand trial.
The statute of limitations is tolled until the extenuating circumstance is no longer an issue. If, for example, you are injured in a Los Angeles car accident when you are 16 years old. The statute of limitations will be tolled until you turn 18.
Alternatively, let’s say you are injured in a home invasion, but police are unable to determine who broke into your home. One year later the police determine who was involved, but it turns out that he is serving two years in jail for an unrelated offense. The statute of limitations for your personal injury claim is tolled until he is released from prison. Tolling the statute of limitations ensures that victims are not unfairly barred from recovering compensation for circumstances beyond their immediate control.
California Personal Injury Statute of Limitations
In California, the statute of limitations varies, depending on the type of injury and/or the at-fault party’s conduct.
- Personal injury to a person resulting from conduct such as assault, battery, negligence, or wrongful death: claims must be filed (1) within two years of the accident/incident or (2) within one year of discovering an injury.
- Injury to personal property resulting from conduct such as fraud, theft, nuisance, or property damage: claims must be filed within three years of the accident/incident.
- Injury from medical malpractice claims must be filed (1) within three years of the incident or (2) within one year from the date of the discovery of malpractice.
- Injury from legal malpractice claims must be filed (1) within four years of the incident or (2) within one year of the discovery of the malpractice.
Again, once the statute of limitations runs – unless tolled – the right to recover compensation for an injury stemming from an accident is barred.
Process for Filing a Claim Against the Government
In some cases, the government or a governmental entity will be liable for accidents and injuries. For example, if you are walking down a Los Angeles municipal sidewalk and trip on a cracked sidewalk, you may have a viable negligence lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles. Claims for personal injury damages against the government have slightly different filing requirements.
In California, you must file an administrative claim with the responsible government entity within six months of the accident/incident that caused your injury. Failure to file this administrative claim will result in an inability to file a civil claim in court. Once the administrative claim is received the government must furnish a response within 45 days, either acknowledging or refusing responsibility. The government generally rejects claims for damages. If rejected, you have six months from the date of the denial to file a civil claim for personal injury damages against the government in court.
So, in most cases, the statute of limitations against the government is considerably shorter than against other parties. If, for some reason, the government fails to respond to your administrative claim the statute of limitations reverts to the general timetables discussed above.
Contact an Experienced Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney
Even if you are not sure that you will file a claim for personal injury damages after an accident, you should contact an experienced California personal injury attorney to learn about your legal rights and options. At Citywide Law Group, our qualified Los Angeles personal injury attorneys are ready to help you understand the ins-and-outs of a claim for damages. When you call for your free consultation, we will explain the importance of filing a timely claim.