Car Accident Statute of Limitations in California

The Nalan Law Firm

What is “Statute of Limitations” and How Does it Work if You’ve Been in a Car Accident in California?


Statute of Limitations

“Statute of Limitations” probably sounds like a scary phrase, right?  Well, there’s a pretty good reason for that – because it is as scary as it sounds! The statute of limitations is the time limit or deadline that you have under the law to file a lawsuit for your accident.


If you don’t file your lawsuit within the statute of limitations, then you may not be able to file a lawsuit any longer.  So even if you have a valid claim for damages, then your claim may be extinguished by the statute of limitations.  The other person you planned on suing may no longer have any obligation to pay for your damages. 


What happens if you still try filing a lawsuit even after the statute of limitations expired?  Well unfortunately, the other person may ask the court for your case to be dismissed.  Likely, they will file a motion based on the statute of limitations, and argue that your deadline to file the lawsuit expired.  If that happens and the court agrees, then the court may dismiss your case.


Keep in mind this does not mean that your case has to actually finish in court before the statute of limitations expires.  The statute of limitations only means that you have to file your lawsuit before the deadline.


It is also important to make sure you file your lawsuit correctly, especially if you are getting close to the statute of limitations deadline.  If your filing is missing any required documents or the filing fee, the court may reject your lawsuit and not accept it.  If you are filing very close to the deadline and that happens, then you may have a major issue on your hands based on the statute of limitations.


That is why it always very important to know the statute of limitations date in your case.  It is also very important to file your lawsuit with plenty of time before your deadline.  Because if you don’t, then you may no longer be able to file a valid lawsuit to recover for your damages.  For additional resources from the California Courts on the statute of limitations topic, check out this link that you may visit for further information.


Car Accident Statute of Limitations

So now that we know what the statute of limitations is, how does it affect your car accident?  Just like in other areas of law, your car accident is also going to have a specific statute of limitations.  You have to pay very close attention to this deadline when filing your lawsuit.  


What is the statute of limitations for a car accident?  Generally, the statute of limitations for bodily injury claims from a car accident is 2 years.  That means, you have 2 years from the time the car accident happened to file a lawsuit for your bodily injury damages. This rule is found in California Code of Civil Procedure section 335.1.


What about the damage to your car?  The statute of limitations for property damage is 3 years.  This means, if you are only making a claim for the damage to your car, then you have 3 years from the time the car accident happened to file a lawsuit for property damages. This rule is found within Code of Civil Procedure section 338.


But be very careful.  Just because you have 3 years to file a lawsuit for your property damage, this does not extend the time you have to file your lawsuit for bodily injuries.  Your bodily injury lawsuit must still be filed within 2 years.


Car Accident Statute of Limitations and Special Precautions when a Governmental Agency is Involved

Also be very careful if your claim or lawsuit is for an accident where the other party is a governmental agency.  For example, if you have an accident with a city worker.  In such instances, the statute of limitations is much shorter. 


Before you can even file a lawsuit, you first have to file what is called an administrative claim.  This administrative claim must be filed with the governmental agency involved within 6 months of the date you were injured. This is based on Government Code section 911.2.


If the agency denies your claim within 45 days, you then have only 6 months to file your lawsuit in court from the date the denial was mailed or personally delivered to you. This rule is found in Government Code sections 912.4 and 912.6.


If on the other hand, the agency does not respond to your claim within 45 days, then you have 2 years from the date the incident occurred to file your lawsuit in court. This rule can be found in Government Code section 945.6 (a)(2).


As you can see, these rules are very strict and can have serious consequences for your case if these deadlines are not met.  Since this article can only cover so much, it is very important that you do not solely rely on this information. You should consult with an attorney to make sure you file your claim or lawsuit before the required deadline.


Local San Diego Car Accident Attorney

At The Nalan Law Firm, PC, we know firsthand the issues you’re dealing with after a car accident, and in having to fight against the insurance company to recover your damages. That is why our lawyer is here to help with your car accident case. If you have a question or are considering filing a car accident claim or lawsuit, please contact us to discuss with one of our experienced accident attorneys at (619) 736-0080 for a free consultation. 


Any content and information provided by this website and/or The Nalan Law Firm, PC is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice or a substitute for competent legal counsel.  Any exchange of information contained in this website, is not intended, and does not establish an attorney-client relationship.

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