In California, you are limited by how long after an accident you can file a lawsuit. Each accident has a specific date by which you must file a lawsuit in order to protect your rights. This specific date is what is known as a statute of limitations.
Provided, are some examples of statutes of limitations. However, keep in mind that every case is different, and it is EXTREMELY important to contact an attorney to make certain you have the correct statute date in order to safeguard you from losing out on compensation.
In general, the statute of limitations depends on two things:
The kind of accident you were involved in, and
Who the defendant is
Standard Motor Vehicle Accidents
The most common accidents I see as a personal injury attorney, are motor vehicle collisions or accidents between two or more vehicles. The statute of limitations for personal injury matters involving motor vehicle collisions is two years from the date of accident as stated in California Code of Civil Procedure § 335.1. For example, if you were rear ended on June 1, 2019, you would have until June 1, 2021 to file a lawsuit. If you wait even one day beyond June 1, 2021, you will forever be barred from pursuing a claim against the wrongdoer.
On the other hand, if you were a minor at the time of the accident, then you have until two years after you reach 18 years old to file a lawsuit for your injuries. However, you do NOT get this extension if a government entity is involved.
Government Tort Claims
A very important caveat, however, is if the person who rear ended you is a government employee or was driving a government vehicle. If this is true, then you only have six months to file a government tort claim with the agency that you claim is responsible as specified in California Government Code §911.2.
For instance, if a city inspector runs a red light and causes a collision, you only have six months from the date of that collision to file a formal government tort claim act with the city inspector’s employer. A government tort claim act must comply with the California Government Code. If it is deemed insufficient by the government entity, your rights to pursue compensation for your personal injury may be estopped forever. An example of a government tort claim is this City of Los Angeles form. Each entity may have their own version that must be used.
Once the government claim form is filed, the government entity has 45 days to decide whether to pay your claim, or not pay your claim. If they pay you, then your case is resolved. In the much more likely scenario where they don’t pay you, you will receive a letter informing you that they are denying the claim.
In the event that you receive such a letter denying the claim, then you only have six months to file a lawsuit. If you don’t file a lawsuit within six months of the date of mailing, you will forever be barred from pursuing a lawsuit for your injuries, as stated in California Government Code § 945.6.
Sometimes, the government does not send you a letter denying the claim. In that rare case, you have two years to file a lawsuit from the date of injury, per California Government Code § 945.6(a)(2).
Since there are many different situations that can change what the statute of limitations is for any given case, such these involving motor vehicle accidents, it is easily seen how they can be difficult to navigate. Contact the Law Office of Fernando Brito Jr. to guide you through the legal minefield, and ensure that you maximize your compensation.