How the Statute of Limitations Affects My PI Case
There’s an encyclopedia of legal terms and phrases that get thrown around, and outside of the legal community, many people who are generally aware of the terms might still be uncertain precisely what they mean, how they work, and when they apply. Many personal injury victims have heard of a “statute of limitations,” but it may be unclear how the statute of limitations might affect their legal claims. Below, we discuss the statute of limitations and how it can affect your personal injury case. If you’ve been hurt due to someone else’s negligence in Southern California, call a dedicated Calabasas personal injury attorney as soon as possible to protect your claim.
What is a Statute of Limitations?
The statute of limitations is the time limit for bringing a specific type of legal claim. Nearly every type of legal claim, whether for civil damages or criminal liability, has a set time limit. The specific statute of limitations varies depending upon state law and the specific legal claim at issue, as well as other factors such as whether a government actor is involved.
If you wait until after the limitations period to file your claim, your case could be tossed out by the court. Unless you can show special circumstances indicating why you were justified in waiting to file your claim (such as if you were in a coma for a large part of the limitations period), waiting until after the time limit to file is disastrous to most cases.
The purpose of the statute of limitations is to give potential defendants peace of mind that some potential claim from 20 years ago cannot suddenly arise. It also reflects the reality that evidence disappears over time, witness recollections become less reliable, witnesses move or pass away, and cases generally become much more muddled and difficult to resolve with accuracy after too much time has passed.
General Statute of Limitations for California Personal Injury Cases
In California, the general statute of limitation for personal injury actions is two years. In most cases, the statute of limitations begins on the date of injury. In the case of a car accident or slip and fall, for example, the injured plaintiff has two years from the date of their accident to file their lawsuit. If the plaintiff waits longer than two years from the accident to file a lawsuit, the court will likely toss out the lawsuit.
Exceptions: Special Claims, Special Defendants, Special Circumstances
The statute of limitations may vary depending on the circumstances surrounding the incident. First of all, there is a question as to when the limitation period begins. Typically, the period starts on the date of injury. In some cases, however, the plaintiff may not know they are injured. For example, a plaintiff may suffer an illness from prolonged exposure to asbestos in an office building. If the two-year period has passed or is otherwise unascertainable, the plaintiff will typically have one year from the date they discovered or should have discovered their injury (such as the date of a medical diagnosis).
In other circumstances, the statute of limitations may be “tolled,” meaning paused. The statute of limitations may be tolled when the defendant is under the age of 18, out of state, or in prison, for example. An injured plaintiff under the age of 18 typically has until they turn 20 to file their claim.
Special types of claims such as medical malpractice carry their own rules. A medical malpractice claim must generally be brought within one year of the date on which the injury was, or should have been, discovered, and typically cannot be brought more than three years from the date of the injury.
In some cases, the period is much shorter. If the plaintiff seeks to file a personal injury claim against a government agency (such as after a traffic accident with a city bus), the plaintiff has only six months from the date of the injury to file.
In all cases, in order to avoid losing out on your rights, it’s important to talk to a knowledgeable California personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. There may be special circumstances limiting the amount of time you have to file, and the longer you wait, the harder it is to successfully bring your claims.
If you or someone you love has been injured due to someone else’s negligence in Southern California, call a knowledgeable and experienced personal injury attorney at the Halpern Law Firm. We fight for the compensation you and your family deserve. Contact us at (818) 785-5999 today. These cases are handled on a contingency basis, meaning you won’t be charged any attorney’s fees unless we win.