How Long Do You Have To File a Claim in California After an Accident/Injury

Justin King talks about the time frame in California for filing a claim after an injury/accident.


Video Transcript: Hi, my name is Justin King and I’m a personal injury lawyer here in the Inland Empire. I just want to talk to you today about I often get questions from clients, “Justin, how long do I have to initiate a claim or file a lawsuit against the other driver who struck me in an auto accident?” The short answer to that question is you have two years from the time of the accident. In the State of California, the statute of limitations … Which is the period in which you have to file a lawsuit … Is two years. After two years is up, you lose all rights to get a remedy from that other driver as a result of that accident. So it’s important that no matter what, you consult a lawyer and that you have a lawsuit filed within two years.

But there really is no reason to wait that long. And there are various things that are time sensitive in a case that you need to get to a lawyer early on for. A good example is if it’s a slip and fall case. If you slipped and fell on some water. There may be an ice machine that’s leaking in that store. If you come to a lawyer that day or the next day and he sends his investigator out and he sees that ice machine leaking and he takes photos or he takes video of that, that helps your case substantially.

Now, if you come to him two years later, that ice machine is fixed. It’s now gone and there’s no way to prove what actually caused the substance to be on the ground. Whether it was just some lady who dropped some water, you know, two seconds before you came through, and then there’s no liability. Or if it’s the fault of the store for having a faulty ice machine. That’s one example.

The other thing is vehicles. It’s important to document the damage of the vehicle to prove the severity of injury. Those vehicles within 45 to 50 days after the accident, they’re typically gone. They’re sold at auction by insurance companies. So you want to consult with a lawyer before hand so they can have someone go out and document the cars before they’re gone. Nowadays, many of these cars have what are called black boxes, where you can actually do downloads and you can download the impact information from the accident. And from that information, my engineer can tell the speeds at impact, the severity of the impact, where the vehicle was hit. All those things can disappear if you don’t get to a lawyer or a person who knows what they’re doing right from the beginning.

Another example is it may be that you were involved in an accident by someone who doesn’t have much money or doesn’t have much insurance coverage. And it could be that that accident was actually caused by a dangerous condition of public property. Maybe part of the roadway was dangerous. Maybe part of the signal light was dangerous. There wasn’t proper signage. A tree was obscuring someone’s view. Those kinds of things can actually cause accidents. And if you wait too long to get to a lawyer who can then investigate these things and document these things, it could be that the condition at the accident scene has been changed and you no longer have a case. So while you do have two years to file a lawsuit, it is important to get to a lawyer early because there are things that are time sensitive in a case.

If you are a minor, the statute of limitations is a little bit different. In California, it is still two years. However, if you’re under the age of 18, the statute does not begin to run until you turn 18. Once you turn 18, then you have two years from that date. Again, these are the outermost limits on filing a claim. No lawyer wants to be contacted a week or two days or three days before a statute runs. If we can avoid those kind of scenarios, we want to avoid them. So get to a lawyer. Get to someone who knows what they are doing early so they can help you with their case.

There are a couple of variations from that. If it’s a public employee that hit you, like an employee of a city or a county or the State of California, or if potentially it’s a dangerous condition of public property like I spoke about earlier … Maybe it’s within the city, maybe it’s within the county, maybe it’s within the State of California … There are things called … There’s a thing called a government claim. You need to file a government claim with that public entity within six months of that accident. If you do not do that, you will not be able to sue that public entity.

So in those kind of scenarios, you don’t want to be waiting around for two years. You want to get to a lawyer quickly who knows the six-month claim statute and can get that claim filed for you and protect your rights.

Again, many, many, many of my clients do ask me how long they have to file a lawsuit. And again, the short answer is two years. But cases don’t get better with time. They tend to get worse with time. So the best time to file a case is when it is not gonna get any better from that point on. And I can tell you when it’s not gonna get any better. It’s not gonna get any better when you finished completing your medical treatment. Once you finish completing your medical treatment and we know what is going on with you and what your long-term medical prognosis will be, that’s the time when you want to get the case filed.

And there’s no need to sit … I tend to file my cases very early, because there is no need to sit around negotiating with an adjuster, an insurance company, while time is being wasted. You get the case filed, you have discovery rights. I can then get information. I can get documents from them. I can move your case towards a trial so that they’re not willing to pay you the appropriate money, fair compensation, for what you went through, then we we can have … We can get our case heard before a jury and we didn’t waste months or years negotiating. And then we have to start the process from the very beginning.

If you have further questions about this, please give my office a call. I’m happy to help you. I’m happy to answer any questions you have. You can also visit my website.   — End of Transcript