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What is the statute of limitations for personal injury in California?

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If you or a loved one suffer a serious injury, you’ve no doubt got a lot on your plate. From seeking medical treatment to figuring out finances when you’re unable to work, the deck is stacked against you. Fortunately, our state’s personal injury laws offer some relief. However, the California personal injury statute of limitations could potentially cause problems.

If you’ve never heard of the term, a statute of limitations is essentially a deadline. In the criminal justice world, it refers to how long a prosecutor has to bring charges against a defendant. When it comes to personal injury, though, this deadline relates to how long injured victims have to file a legal claim. Missing this deadline can be devastating. Here’s what you need to know.

How Long is California’s Personal Injury Statute of Limitations?

In many cases, the deadline to file a case is pretty straightforward. That’s because the statute of limitations for personal injury cases in California is two years. This is also true for wrongful death claims. However, you’ll actually have three years if your injuries were a result of medical malpractice. As long as you file a legal claim before these deadlines expire, you may be eligible for financial recovery.

However, what if you miss the statute of limitations for California personal injury cases? Perhaps treatment took much longer than you expected, or maybe you didn’t think you were eligible for compensation. In such cases, you may have forfeited your right to file a legal claim. Courts will likely dismiss your case, and absent legal peril, insurance companies will have no incentive to reimburse you for losses.

Are There Exceptions to California’s Statute of Limitations?

The statute of limitations for California personal injury cases is fairly strict. However, it is not without nuance. There are actually several exceptions to the traditional timeline. Keep in mind, though, that these do not apply to most cases. This is why you should never depend on an exception to the law. Instead, speak with a legal professional to learn your options.

These are the common situations that may extend your deadline to file:


When a person under the age of 18 suffers a personal injury, the statute of limitations tolls (i.e., suspends) until the individual turns 18. At that point, the traditional timeline applies to them.

Incapacitated Individuals

If someone is legally incompetent or mentally incapacitated at the time of their injury, the statute of limitations may be tolled. Once they regain capacity, the deadline to file applies.

Concealment or Fraud

If a negligent party fraudulently conceals an injury or facts to a case, the statute of limitations may be extended.

Foreign Object in Body

Although the medical malpractice statute of limitations in California is three years, the timeline may be tolled in cases involving foreign objects left inside the body. This will apply until a person discovers or should have reasonably discovered the object.

If your case falls into any of these categories, you may still have time to file. This is true even if your initial injury occurred years in the past. However, it’s contingent on the injury victim to prove that a specific exception applies to their case. If you’ve missed the California personal injury statute of limitations deadline, speak with an attorney to learn your options.

Isn’t There Plenty of Time to File a Personal Injury Claim?

Even if there are no extenuating circumstances to a personal injury claim, many people still feel like two years is plenty of time. They think they can spend a few months healing before worrying about legal headaches. Unfortunately, there are some issues with this assumption. Most importantly, you’ll be handling all your own bills during this time.

Additionally, two years isn’t nearly as long as you might expect. Medical treatment itself can take months or even years. You can also expect the insurance company to drag its feet on a potential settlement. Even worse, personal injury claims against the government require that a written claim be submitted within six months of the incident.

If there’s one thing to take away from this, it’s that the personal injury statute of limitations in California can be complex. Let our personal injury attorneys help. Contact us today at V&A Law Firm by calling 818-369-3270. We’re here to help.

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