Is it Too Late to File a Lawsuit?

When you are in an accident and decide to file a lawsuit against the other person, you don’t have all the time in the world to do so.

A statute of limitations is the deadline for filing a lawsuit.

Most lawsuits must be filed within a certain amount of time. Bottom line – once the statute of limitations on a case runs out, the legal claim is not valid any longer. The period of time during which you can file a lawsuit varies depending on the type of legal claim.

California Code of Civil Procedure Section 335.1 is the Statute of Limitations applicable to personal injury and wrongful death cases, including, but not limited to, automobile, truck, motorcycle, bicycle, pedestrian and slip and fall.

The statute is also applicable to actions for assault and battery caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another, and to actions for defective products, also known as product liability cases.

The following are examples of Statutes of Limitations in California for some common types of legal disputes:

  • Professional/Legal malpractice: one year from date of discovery to a maximum of four years from the date of the wrongful act
  • Medical malpractice: three years from the date of the injury, or one year from the date the plaintiff discovers or reasonably should have discovered the injury – whichever happens first
  • Injury to personal property: three years
  • Fraud: three years
  • Personal injury: two years
  • Product liability: two years
  • Contracts: written: four years; oral: two years
  • Libel / Slander / Defamation: one year

Suing a government agency is different. You have to file a special claim, known as an administrative claim, with the government office or agency before you file in court. You must use the government’s forms to file the claim:

  1. For personal injury or personal property damage, you must file your administrative claim within six months of the date of injury. See California Government Code Section 905 and Section 911.2 for more information.
  2. For breach of contract and real property damage cases, you must file your administrative claim within one year of the date the contract was broken or the real property damage occurred.

Once you file your claim, the government has 45 days to respond. If the government agency denies your claim during the 45 days, you have six months to file a lawsuit in court from the date the denial was mailed or delivered to you. The statute of limitations for government claims can be complicated.

In addition, under California law, except in cases of medical malpractice, a minor has two years from the date of his or her 18th birthday to file a tort claim. For actions involving minors below the age of six, the action must be filed within three years of the date of the injury or before the minor’s eighth birthday – whichever period is greater.

For more information on the most common time periods for starting lawsuits or filing a claim, see California Code of Civil Procedure Sections 312 through 366.

If you have been injured in an accident and have questions regarding how much time you have to file a lawsuit, it is wise to contact an experienced personal injury attorney who can answer all of your questions and advise you or your legal rights and options.


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