In all jurisdictions in the United States, there is a time limit for filing personal injury lawsuits. This is known as the statute of limitations. Once the period has expired, a lawsuit is no longer considered valid and will be rejected by the court.
After a personal injury accident in California, an injured person must file a lawsuit within two years from the date of the injury or accident. An exception is provided for cases in which the injury cannot be discovered or diagnosed at the time of the crash. In such exceptional circumstances, an additional year might be allowed to file a claim. According to California law, a property damage lawsuit must be filed within three years after the damage occurred, was discovered, or reasonably should have been discovered.
The state of California is governed by shared fault principles. If you have been injured in a car accident, the defendant may argue that the action or inaction of the injured suing party (the plaintiff) caused or contributed to the accident and injuries. California has adopted a “pure comparative negligence rule.” According to this rule, the amount of financial compensation received by the injured plaintiff can be reduced by a percentage based on shared fault.
Although the statute of limitations begins to run on the date of the injury or damage to the vehicle, the law allows an extension of time to file a claim under certain circumstances. For example, if you were involved in a car accident, you may not be aware of the extent of your injuries until weeks or even months afterward. If the apparent injuries were only minor, you might not have received immediate medical attention. Some injuries, such as those that are internal or spinal fractures, may not be diagnosed for quite some time. In this scenario, the statute of limitations is extended for one year after diagnosis by a healthcare professional.
A similar exception applies to property damage claims. Immediately after a crash, your vehicle may show signs of exterior body damage. However, an impact can also cause damage to the engine and other internal components that may not become apparent until several months after the impact. In this event, the statute of limitations begins to run on the date the damage was discovered, or when a court determines that a reasonable person should have discovered the damage.
If you have suffered personal injury as a result of a car accident, it is important to seek legal advice from an experienced California personal injury attorney immediately. Your attorney will investigate the accident, interview witnesses and review your medical records before filing a lawsuit on your behalf. Insurance companies may contact you to try to reach a settlement. You may be tempted to accept a financial offer that is payable immediately, but such a choice will likely be unwise, in the long run. Your injuries may worsen, causing you to be faced with additional medical expenses in the future. In addition, if extensive vehicle damage is subsequently discovered, you may incur high vehicle repair or replacement costs. If you settle quickly without the assistance of a knowledgeable attorney, you may not be able to recoup these later expenses.
Personal injury law is complicated; don’t risk going it alone. A California personal injury attorney who is experienced in car accident cases will take the necessary steps to ensure that you are adequately compensated for your injuries and property damage.