If you’re thinking of filing a lawsuit for your injuries in California, it’s important to know that there are time limits set by California law.  If you wait too long, you might lose your right to pursue your case in court.   If you have questions about deadlines, it’s important to contact a personal injury attorney immediately.  

The deadline to file a lawsuit is called the statute of limitations.  

What is the Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Claims?

In California, you usually have two years from the date of your injury to file a lawsuit. There are exceptions, but two years is the usual time limit.  If you don’t file within the applicable deadline, then you might lose your right to sue.

Are there Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations?

California law understands that sometimes it’s not possible to file a claim right away. One common exception is called delayed discovery, or the “Discovery Rule.”  This means the two-year limit starts when you find out you’re injured or realize someone else’s mistake caused your accident.  For example, in a medical malpractice case, you may not be aware of an injury until weeks or months later.  

Other exceptions include when the statute of limitations is “tolled” (suspended).  The statute of limitations might get tolled when the defendant is in prison, when a party is a minor, legally incompetent, or has moved out of the state.  In those cases, the clock stops ticking on the deadline, but then resumes once the reason for the tolling is over.  When you speak to your personal injury attorney, they will look at all the facts of your case to see whether any of the exceptions apply to you.

What About Suing the Government?

Sometimes, your claim is against a governmental agency or a city.  For example, if you are involved in an accident with a city-owned vehicle or employee or if you fall on a public sidewalk.  If you want to sue a governmental agency in California, there are extra steps that are required by the California Tort Claims Act.  

First, you have to file a Claim with the appropriate governmental agency within six months of the date of the injury.  If you do not file your claim within six months, you must file a lawsuit with an “application for late filing” setting forth specific justifications for the late filing.  

If the claim is filed within six months, the government must respond or take action within 45 days.  If the claim is denied, you have 6 months from the date of denial to file your lawsuit.  If there is no response within 45 days, you have 2 years from the date of the occurrence to file your lawsuit.  

As you can see, the deadlines can get tricky, which is why it’s important to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney to make sure all deadlines are met so that you can preserve your right to make your claim.  

What About Medical Malpractice Claims?

Medical malpractice cases are similar to personal injury cases but have more complex rules and different deadlines.  The deadline is usually shortened to one year instead of two years to file your lawsuit.  There are even shorter deadlines to file claims if the claim is made against a public hospital.  Medical malpractice has become more and more specialized over the years, so it’s important than ever to consult with a personal injury attorney.  

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