If you were involved in a car accident, especially if you were the driver or a passenger in a car hit by a negligent driver, you should consider reporting the accident to your insurance company and contacting an experienced auto accident attorney within a timely manner. Both actions may be able to help you down the road should you decide to file a personal injury lawsuit to recover financial damages for injuries suffered. Be aware that you must file a lawsuit within a certain amount of time.
What is a statute of limitations?
A statute of limitations provides the maximum amount of time after an incident that an individual can begin legal proceedings relating to that incident. In other words, a statute of limitations is basically a deadline for filing a lawsuit. Once the statute of limitations runs, the claim is no longer valid.
What is the statute of limitations for an auto accident lawsuit in California?
In California, car accident claims fall within the realm of personal injury litigation. California law provides that an individual has 2 years to file a lawsuit to obtain financial reimbursement for damages from a personal injury. Once the statute of limitations has expired (after 2 years from the date of injury), you lose the right to file a lawsuit. If the injury was not discovered at the time of the incident, then you have 1 year from the date that you discovered the injury to file a lawsuit. An experienced auto accident lawyer in San Fernando can explain this in further detail.
It is important to also note that the statute of limitations can vary depending on who is the plaintiff (the one filing the lawsuit) and who is the defendant (the one being sued). For example, if the defendant is a public entity or government agency (city, county, state, federal, or a branch thereof), you must file an administrative claim with the government agency within 6 months from the date of the incident. If your claim is denied within 45 days, then you have 6 months from the date of denial to file your lawsuit. If you do not receive a denial, then you still have 2 years from the date of the incident.
Another example is the situation where the statute of limitations is suspended ("tolled") and does not run for a period of time. Some reasons that the statute of limitations can be tolled are if the defendant is a minor, is legally insane, is incompetent, is out of state, or is in prison. When the reason for the tolling ends, the statute of limitations begins to run again.
In regards to minors, plaintiffs who are considered minors have a longer period of time to sue. If you were involved in a car accident before the age of 18, you can file a lawsuit within 1 year of your 18th birthday if your parents have not already filed previously.
Should you speak to an auto accident attorney?
The process of obtaining financial reimbursement for your personal injury may prove to be difficult without the assistance of a skilled Woodland Hills auto accident lawyer. In order to avoid potentially losing your ability to file a car accident lawsuit because the statute of limitations has run, retain an attorney who is experienced in the field of auto accidents and personal injury law as soon as possible after the accident.
For more information on financial recovery after an auto accident, as well as to discuss whether the statute of limitations has run in your case, contact auto accident lawyer Barry P. Goldberg today.