California's Statute of Limitations Personal Injury - Adamson Ahdoot

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The Complete Guide to Personal Injury Statute of Limitations in California

March 3, 2023 Alan Ahdoot
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Time is of the essence when filing a lawsuit. Each state has specific time limitations for different injury cases. In the Golden State, these regulations are found in California’s statute of limitations for personal injury.

You may lose your right to sue after a year, depending on your case and where you live. To successfully sue someone for negligence, you need to understand how your state’s statutory window works. 

Here’s everything you need to know about California’s statute of limitations and exemptions to help you get started. 

What is a Statute of Limitations?

Before we dive deep into California’s statute of limitations for personal injury, you first need to understand how the concept works. 

The statute of limitations refers to the timeframe people can sue the at-fault party. Suppose you were involved in a car accident in California caused by a drunk driver. In that case, you only have two years from the day you were injured to file a lawsuit against the at-fault party. 

Once that period ends, you’ll lose your right to sue. 

California’s Statute of Limitations For Personal Injury Claims

Typically, Californians have two years to file a personal injury lawsuit against someone. But, there are certain instances wherein the state makes an exemption.

Here are the statutes of limitations in California for different personal injury cases.

Child Sexual Abuse

California extends its prescriptive period for child sexual abuse cases. For instance, minor victims can still file a lawsuit against their assaulter eight years after their 18th birthday. The state also allows victims to sue three years after discovering they were assaulted. 

Suppose eight years have passed since the victim turned 18, and they filed the case under delayed discovery exemption. In that instance, their party must sign a sworn certificate that the case still has merit. Their lawyers need to sign one alongside a psychological expert. 

Domestic Violence

A married individual who decides to sue for personal injuries caused by domestic violence will have three years to file a claim after the last act of violence. Victims can also sue their partners three years after discovering their injuries resulted from domestic violence.


People injured due to a felony have one year after the courts passed the criminal justice to file their case. Typically, felonies have a ten-year statute of limitation. And the countdown doesn’t start until the defendant’s parole period ends.

Medical Malpractice

You have three years to sue your physician if you were injured because of medical malpractice. But if your injuries weren’t immediately apparent, you only have one year to file a claim for damages. 

personal injury lawyer in office
It’s possible to file a case after its statute of limitations expires.

What Happens If I Miss My Deadline?

It’s possible to sue people once the statute of limitations of your personal injury case ends. But know that the defendant’s party could use this against you. They can claim that the statutory window for your case has already lapsed and get your lawsuit dismissed. 

To prevent this, you must prove that one of the two following exemptions apply to your case:

Delayed Discovery

Sometimes, victims of car accidents don’t immediately feel their injuries. But once the adrenaline from the incident subsides, their bodies start to feel the symptoms.

When this happens, California’s law will allow you to file a lawsuit within one year of discovery. Suppose you discovered you were suffering from whiplash on September 2021. In that case, you can sue the at-fault driver until September 2022. 

But if you decide to file a claim the next month, your case will likely be dismissed.

Defendant Left The State

Another exemption California takes into consideration is when the defendant leaves their state. Suppose you want to sue your physician for malpractice, but they’ve decided to leave California. The state will put your statutory window on hold until they come back. 

California’s legal code only applies to those living within its borders. Once they leave, they’re no longer subjected to its regulations. Even if your physician leaves, you no longer have to worry about your statute of limitations expiring. 

The court will put it on pause until they go back to California. They’ll only start the countdown once they’ve come home. 

It’s Necessary to File Your Personal Injury Claim on Time 

Two years may seem like a long time, but days will go by fast if you’re too busy healing from the incident. That’s why successful attorneys always tell their clients that timing matters. You’ll have a higher chance of succeeding if you file your lawsuit in time. 

And one of the best ways to speed up the filing process is by hiring an experienced personal injury attorney

There’s no denying that suing someone often takes months or years. But by working with someone that knows the ins and outs of California’s statute of limitations, you’ll be able to be compensated for your injuries in no time. 

Adamson Ahdoot is a full-service civil litigation firm with over 100 years of combined legal experience handling personal injury cases. With our help, you can trust that the best lawyers will handle your case with the intimacy and attention to detail of a boutique firm, with the expertise of a larger one.

Not only will our team make sure you file your case on time, but we’ll also help you build a winnable case. Our personal injury lawyers have won several personal injury cases. Adamson Ahdoot’s team has made it its mission to guarantee our clients the compensation they deserve.

We proudly serve a diverse clientele with their car accident cases and offer free English and Spanish consultations. Call us at (800) 310-1606 and start building a solid case today.

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