There are many things that need to be handled after a car accident and they all have their own time frame for when they should be done. Filing a claim to receive compensation for your damages has its own time limit. The timeframe in which you have to file a claim is known as a statute of limitations. California Civil Code of Procedure Section 340 sets the limit for filing a lawsuit after a car accident at two years from the date of the crash. If the person who was injured is a minor, then they have until two years after they reach eighteen years old. While there are some exceptions and extenuating circumstances that may extend this time frame, after the statute of limitations has passed, the injured party is no longer able to file a claim.
In the event that the claim would be brought against a government agency, such as getting hit by a police car or a city bus, the statute of limitations is shortened to six months by California Government Code Section 912.
When Does the Timer for the Statute of Limitation for Car Accidents Start?
When an injury occurs due to a car accident, the statute of limitations for filing a claim counts two years from the date of the accident. If someone dies of their injuries from the accident later on, the statute of limitations counts two years from the date of death if the date of the victim passing is different than the date of the accident.
Why is the Statute of Limitations for Car Accidents Normally 2 Years?
One of the main factors in determining a statute of limitations is how well the evidence can be preserved. In the instance of car accident cases, a majority of the relevant evidence is the individual people’s memory of the event as well as physical evidence such as injuries sustained and property damage. The California Code of Civil Procedure sets out different statutes of limitations for different situations.
What Considerations Can Change the Car Accident Statute of Limitations?
Availability – If the defendant is unavailable due to incarceration, mentally unstable, or simply being out of state, then the statute of limitations may be extended.
Bankruptcy – If the defendant has filed for bankruptcy, any lawsuits seeking monetary compensation form them are automatically stayed. Claims against them would be discharged after any bankruptcy proceedings were completed.
Death – If the injured party dies after the accident, then the statute of limitations begins counting from the date of death rather than the date of the accident.
Government – If the at fault party is a government entity, then the statute of limitations to file a claim with the government is six months. If the government denies that claim, the statute of limitations to file a lawsuit is six months from the date of that denial.
Mental Capacity – If the plaintiff is mentally incapacitated for some reason, the statute of limitations may be extended. This may be relevant in situations where the plaintiff’s injuries from the accident resulted in them becoming comatose or suffering severe brain damage.
Minors – If a car accident victim is under the age of eighteen, then the statute of limitations to file a claim is extended to two years after their eighteenth birthday.
Property Damage – If a car accident results in property damages but no injuries, then California Civil Code of Procedure dictates that the statute of limitations to file a claim is three years from the date of the accident.
What if the Car Accident Was Somehow Caused by Government Negligence?
Sometimes accidents occur involving city vehicles. In the state of California, there are specific guidelines to how a citizen may handle these situations. If you are in an accident that was the fault of a government employee, you would have six months to notify the government entity of your claim and wait for their reply. If the claim is then denied, you would have another six months in which to file a lawsuit. This short time frame is one of the reasons why it is important to pin down who all the parties are involved in an accident and who is at fault.
What Happens if You File a Car Accident Personal Injury Claim Too Late?
Generally speaking, if a claim is filed after the statute of limitations period has passed, the court will deny it and there will be no way to receive compensation. There are some instances where extensions may be granted due to extenuating circumstances such as health and availability, but for the most part, the statute of limitations are considered a hard and fast rule.
When Should You File a Car Accident Personal Injury Claim?
If you have been involved in a car accident, sometimes it is more advisable to file a claim with the liable driver’s insurance company before filing a lawsuit. This strategy can give the injured party time to seek and receive medical attention and put together a tangible account of their economic and non-economic losses both present and future. It is also possible that the injured party and their attorney may be able to negotiate with the insurance company without having to go through the lengthy and expensive ordeal of litigation. Obtaining an out of court settlement can be preferable to the court process if a fair amount can be agreed upon.
What if I Wasn’t Insured at the Time of the Car Accident?
In the state of California, the person who is at fault for the accident is the one who is liable for damages, and it is their insurance company that would be expected to pay. If you are injured in an accident due to someone else’s negligence, then you may be entitled to compensation regardless of whether or not you have insurance yourself.
Do I Need a Car Accident Lawyer to File a Claim?
Sometimes, less serious accidents can be simple enough that there is no need for lawyers to get involved. When there is only a small amount of property damage and there are no injuries, it can be better to just report the accident to the insurance companies and let them sort everything out.
Accidents that do result in injuries or have intricate details can be much more complicated and it is better to have a lawyer to help you file a claim. A car accident attorney can manage the details, collect documentation, and negotiate with the insurance companies to make sure you receive the compensation you deserve. If you are unsure whether or not you need to hire a lawyer for your car accident claim, consider the following:
- Was anyone in your car injured or killed?
- Did you miss work due to your injuries?
- Is the other driver denying fault?
- Did the accident take place on government property or in a work, school, or construction zone?
- Did the other driver not have adequate insurance?
- Are you unable to find, gather, or preserve relevant evidence needed?
- Has the insurance company tried to deny or reduce your claim?
- Have you been asked to give an official statement about the accident?
- Are you unsure of any of your options, your rights, or your ability to negotiate with the insurance companies?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, it may be in your best interest to speak to an attorney to help you with your case.
What Else Do I Need to File a Car Accident Claim?
When filing a claim after a car accident, the most important thing you need is evidence. Relevant evidence for a car accident claim can be medical records such as x-rays and testing to show injuries and bills to show medical expenses. You may also have documentation that shows your injuries caused you to miss work and prior paystubs to show the wages you’ve lost out on as a result. It is also important to have any evidence from the accident as possible such as photographs, footage from nearby security cameras, and any witness testimony.
It can take time to gather and compile all the relevant evidence necessary to prove your claim. It is best to start collecting as much information as possible as soon as possible in order to be prepared to file your claim within the statute of limitations.
Contact Mesriani Law Group if You Have Been Injured in a Car Accident
There are many things that need to be done if you are going to file a personal injury claim after a car accident. It can be a daunting and complex process and you only have two years from the date of the accident to file. A personal injury lawyer can guide you through the process and help you find doctors, gather evidence, file your claim, and negotiate with the insurance companies to help you receive the compensation you deserve. Our attorneys are experienced, hardworking, and dedicated to our clients. If you have been injured in a car accident, call Mesriani Law Group today for a free consultation.
Car Accident Statute of Limitations FAQs
How long do you have to file a claim for a car accident in California?
The California car accident statute of limitations is two years from the date the accident occurred. If the claim is against the government, then the statute of limitations is only six months from the date of the accident to file a claim with the government, and then if the claim is denied, you have another six months from the date of that denial in which to file a lawsuit. There are some exceptions and extenuating circumstances that may lead to someone being able to file a claim after the statute of limitations has expired.
Can I claim for an accident after 5 years?
Generally speaking, if you try to file a personal injury claim for a car accident more than two years after the date the accident occurred, the claim will be denied. However, there are some instances where exceptions may be made. If you were left mentally incapacitated from your injuries and unable to file your claim in time, you might still be allowed to file. You also may be given more time to file if the person you are bringing the claim against is unavailable because they are mentally incapacitated themselves, in prison, in another state or out of the country. Minors are also granted an extension to the statute of limitations and have until two years after the day they turn eighteen.
What is the statute of limitations for insurance claims in California?
After a car accident, the insurance companies should be notified right away for a myriad of reasons. In the state of California, you have two years from the date of the accident in which to file a claim. There are some occasions when that time frame may be shortened such as accidents involving government entities, and occasions where that time frame may be extended such as accidents that result in incapacitating injuries and accidents involving minors.
How long after an accident can you sue for personal injury in California?
Although the statute of limitations in California for filing a personal injury claim after a car accident is two years from the date the incident occurred, there are some exceptions. For instance, if someone is injured in a car accident and dies of those injuries days, weeks, or even months later, the family has two years from the date of death to file a wrongful death claim. Also, if someone is injured in a car accident and they are a minor, they have until their twentieth birthday (two years after the date they turn eighteen) to file a personal injury claim.