How Long After a Car Accident Can You Claim Injury?
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an estimated 42,915 people in the U.S. died in traffic accidents in 2021. That’s a 10.5% increase from 2020.
Each day, over 1,000 car accidents occur in California, resulting in injury or property damage. If you’ve been involved in a crash, your first priority may be to focus on your health and recovery.
However, you must be aware that there are restrictions on filing a lawsuit to recover compensation. If you’re the victim of an automobile accident, you may wonder how long after a car accident can you claim injury.
Here’s what you should know about California’s statute of limitations for car accidents.
What Is the Statute of Limitations?
The statute of limitations depends on where you live. It’s a good idea to know the statute of limitations for where you live or where you will be visiting. If you’re involved in a car accident in California and plan to file a lawsuit, you have two years to sue for damages.
California law does not allow those under 18 to be independent parties in a personal injury claim. The two-year statute of limitations will start running after they reach the age of 18. However, parents can act on their child’s behalf to take prompt legal action.
When Does the Clock Start Running?
The clock for the statute of limitations begins as soon as it’s clear you have a legal claim. For personal injuries, the statute of limitations is two years from the date of the injury. For example, if your crash occurred on December 1, 2022, you have until December 1, 2024, to file your claim.
However, if the injury isn’t discovered right away, the statute of limitations is one year from the date the injury is discovered.
Although a two-year statute of limitations may seem long, car accident claims often require lengthy investigations. Personal injury cases are often complex, and your attorney needs time to build a solid case on your behalf.
Even if you choose to settle your car accident claim outside of court, the two-year statute of limitations still applies.
In some cases, the statute of limitations may be suspended or tolled for a period of time. For instance, tolling may occur if the defendant is a minor, out of the state, in prison, or is legally incompetent.
Statute of Limitations for Property Damage Only
If you were in a car accident but only received damage to your vehicle or property, you have more time to pursue compensation.
If you’re only seeking compensation for property damage, the statute of limitations is three years.
Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations
Sadly, many traffic accidents end tragically, and family members are left picking up the pieces after the death of a loved one. The statute of limitations for wrongful death begins on the date of death.
There are exceptions to this rule in special circumstances. Some exceptions include:
- Family members could not have reasonably known about their loved one’s death until some time later.
- Delays in the discovery process.
- Cases of fraud.
- If a family member didn’t realize another party was at fault.
- The cause of death is undetermined (as with a defective product).
- If a defendant dies before the plaintiff files a claim.
Claims Against the Government
For cases with the government as the defendant, the statute of limitations is six months from the date of injury. After you file a personal injury claim, the government has 45 days to provide a response.
If a government entity denies the claim within 45 days, you have 6 months to file a lawsuit from the date the denial was mailed or delivered to you. If you don’t receive a rejection letter, you have two years from the day the accident occurred to file a lawsuit.
Injury to a Minor
There is an exception to the statute of limitations if the injured party is a minor.
The two-year period doesn’t begin until the child reaches 18 years old.
Limited Mental Capacity
The statute of limitations is extended if the person pursuing compensation is mentally incapacitated.
For example, if their injuries are severe and render them unable to make decisions or act on their own, the grace period to file a lawsuit is extended for two years.
If the victim is mentally incompetent, a guardian can file a personal injury lawsuit on their behalf.
What If I File a Claim After the Deadline?
If you fail to file your claim within the statute of limitations, the court may dismiss your claim. Unless your claim is one that falls within the limited exceptions allowed by California law, you will lose any chance to receive compensation for your injuries.
For this reason, it’s in your best interest to consult a car accident attorney as soon as possible following your accident. Your attorney will know the appropriate time limits for filing your accident claim.
When Should I File My Car Accident Claim?
Although you may think it’s a good idea to file a lawsuit soon after an accident, it is better to pursue a claim with the insurance company of the negligent driver. During this time you can obtain any medical treatment, physical therapy, or rehabilitation needed.
Once the extent of your injuries is documented, you may be able to settle a claim with the insurance company for reasonable compensation for any injuries and property damage you sustained. This allows you to receive compensation in a timely manner and avoid litigation and court delays.
The best way to maximize compensation for your damages is to hire a qualified car accident lawyer. An experienced personal injury lawyer understands the statute of limitations and can negotiate with the insurance company to achieve the best possible result for you.
How Long After a Car Accident Can You Claim Injury?
Car accidents are often life-changing events. If you are dealing with serious injuries, mounting medical bills, or time away from work, you may be wondering how long after a car accident can you claim injury.
It’s important to understand California’s statute of limitations for accident injury victims and adhere to this timeframe. An experienced car accident lawyer can help you navigate the legal process and meet all required deadlines.
We know how stressful the aftermath of a car accident can be, and our Garden Grove car accident lawyers are here to help.
Contact us today to schedule a free consultation to discuss your claim.