California Statute of Limitations: Time Limits for Filing Personal Injury Claims

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Written by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer Jeffrey Johnson

UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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Personal injury statutes of limitations in California limit the amount of time that you have to file a lawsuit. Read on for more information about how long you have, under California law, to sue for specific injuries and claims.

A negligence case encompasses the bulk of personal injury law. Examples of negligence cases include car accidents, pedestrian accidents, falls, dog bites, drownings, and other home and apartment related injuries. The statute of limitations in California, meaning how long you have to file these cases with the court, is two years from the time of the incident or two years from the time that the injury was or should have been reasonably discovered. If this seems like a short amount of time to file a potentially large case, keep in mind that prior to 2003, the statute of limitations in California was only one year. 

Wrongful Death

A wrongful death case is brought when a negligence case ends in death. The lawsuit is filed by the victim’s estate on behalf of the victim’s family or heirs. In California, wrongful death actions have a one year statute of limitations. The two exceptions to this rule are an asbestos related death and medical malpractice. 

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Medical Malpractice

If your injury occurred due to the negligence of a doctor, then you have a medical malpractice lawsuit. In California, the statute of limitations for filing a medical malpractice depends on the age of the victim and the type of injury. For adults, the statute of limitations is three years from the date of the injury or one year from the date of discovery of the injury. The one exception to this rule is where there is a foreign object discovered inside the victim’s body. In these cases, the statute of limitations is when the object either was or should have been discovered. 

For children under the age of six, the statute of limitations is three years from the time the injury is discovered. This statute of limitations applies until the child reaches eight years old, at which time the adult statute of limitations is applied. 

Intentional Torts

Intentional torts are an area also handled by California personal injury lawyers and involve intentional misconduct by another person. Examples include assault, battery, false imprisonment and destruction of property. The statute of limitations for intentional torts is one year from the time the tort happened. 

Products Liability

If you are injured by a product, then you have a products liability claim. Examples of recent products liability cases include injuries to infants due to faulty cribs, injuries to drivers due to faulty seat belts, and injuries to consumers due to finding body parts such as fingers in manufactured products. Products liability cases have a 2 year statute of limitations that runs from the time the defect is discovered or from the time the victim should have reasonably known about the defect. 

If you have been injured by another person or business, it is imperative that you contact a California personal injury lawyer immediately following the injury to avoid losing your right to compensation for your expenses. 

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