california statute of limitations for a car accident

Recovering after a car accident can take a long time. Hospital stays can take weeks, while physical therapy can take months or years. Processing and overcoming the trauma and pain of a car accident can take even longer. 

However, if you plan to file a lawsuit because of the accident, you can’t wait forever. California has a strict deadline for filing claims called a “statute of limitations.” In most cases, the statute of limitations in a California car accident case is only two years. 

Therefore, if you or a loved one have been involved in a car accident, you need to act quickly. Don’t let the statute of limitations in California make your claim untimely. Contact a knowledgeable Long Beach car accident attorney today. 

What Is the Statute of Limitations for Car Accidents in California?

Section 340.8 of the California Code of Civil Procedure contains the statute of limitations for car accidents. For most civil lawsuits for losses caused in a car accident, the statute of limitations in California is two years from the date of the accident. If you do not file your lawsuit within the statute of limitations, the court will most likely throw out your case. 

That said, this two year statute of limitations does not apply in every situation. One exception applies to car accidents involving government entities. For example, if you were rear-ended by a police vehicle and suffered injuries as a result. Since this is a claim not against a private citizen but a government entity (i.e., the police), a different statute of limitations would apply. Instead of two years, you would have only six months after the accident to file your claim. 

Other circumstances can extend the statute of limitations. If a minor child is injured in a car accident, the statute of limitations clock doesn’t start ticking until they are 18 years old

Two years may sound like a long time, but claims take time. Injuries may need time for treatment plans and diagnoses, and determining fault may need the consultation of experts to parse through the data and witness statements.

Your attorney has a lot of work to do gathering evidence and building your case. So it’s never a good idea to wait. Instead, you should reach out to a qualified car accident attorney right away.

Why Is the Statute of Limitations Only Two Years?

There are several good reasons why the state limits the statute of limitations to two years. For one, limiting the time period to two years helps ensure that sufficient evidence is available. As any attorney or police officer can tell you, evidence degrades over time. 

Witnesses move, pass away, or simply forget key facts because memories fade over time. Physical evidence, like documents and photographs, can be lost or destroyed. As the amount of evidence decreases, it becomes harder and harder to get a fair outcome in a case.

Capping the statute of limitations to only two years also gives people a sense of finality. If there were no statute of limitations, people could bring lawsuits over events that occurred 5, 10, 20, or even 30 years ago. 

What If I Didn’t Know I Was Injured Until a Long Time After the Car Accident?

Sometimes, people feel perfectly fine after a car accident. Because they don’t see or feel any effects after the crash, they assume that they’re healthy and don’t go to a doctor. However, car accidents cause all kinds of hidden traumas, like spinal trauma and closed head injuries. Some of the injuries take months or even years to develop. 

If you were injured in an accident and waited too long to bring your claim, you may be ultimately barred from receiving recovery from the negligent party.   

Consequently, if your injury appeared months or years after the accident, you will need to consult with a qualified legal professional who will help determine whether your claim is still viable and able to file a lawsuit.

I’m Short of Cash Right Now. How Can I Afford an Attorney?

Many people wrongly assume that they have to pay attorneys an hourly fee. Although attorneys are sometimes paid by the hour, you can sometimes hire them on a contingency fee basis. In a contingency fee arrangement, you pay only when the attorney resolves your case in a favorable monetary outcome. Your attorney will receive a certain agreeable percentage of the payout.  

This method allows you to get legal representation even if you don’t have a lot of extra money available to pay upfront fees. It also means that the attorney gets paid only if they win money for you. After damages award money comes in, the attorney takes the agreed-upon percentage as their fee and the rest after disbursement of costs and medical bills will be given to you.  

Don’t Wait Another Day to Get Justice. Contact Us Today. 

Surviving a car accident is incredibly stressful. It can also be devastating to your finances and physical and mental well-being. However, do not miss your opportunity to recover compensation for your losses. You deserve to be compensated for your pain, suffering, and lost wages. So act quickly and call an attorney today. 

Michael A Beliz, Esq. is a dedicated and experienced personal injury attorney who can help you obtain justice. Over the course of almost two decades, Mr. Beliz has represented clients in countless car accident cases. Thanks to his stellar representation, his clients have received some amazing results over the years. If you want a qualified and compassionate attorney to represent you, look no further. Give us a call or contact us online to set up an appointment.

Author Photo

Michael Beliz

Michael A. Beliz, Esq., established The Beliz Law Firm in the spring of 2011.  Michael has been a practicing attorney since 2006 and worked for two of the most prominent plaintiff’s personal injury law firms in Southern California.  He has worked on and handled hundreds of cases as an attorney in all types of personal injury cases, including vehicle accidents, pedestrian accidents and dog bites, and successfully recovered millions of dollars for his clients.

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