Have you been injured by another person, or through the fault or negligence of another person? Then you might be able to file for compensation. However, you shouldn’t wait too long to file a suit. California has a statute of limitations of only two years in most cases, and if you miss that deadline, there is little you can do except under very limited circumstances, no matter how much experience or skill your lawyer may have.
What Is the Purpose of the Statute of Limitations?
The statute of limitation has been designed to ensure that any lawsuit is conducted fairly. The more time has passed after the injury, the harder it will be to determine who was at fault. Evidence has a way of disappearing, and the memory of witnesses becomes less accurate over time. So it is in everyone’s interest to take a lawsuit to court as soon as possible.
The clock starts ticking when the injury occurred or when you become aware that an injury has occurred. The latter may sound a bit strange, but it often happens, especially in medical malpractice cases, that the patient didn’t realize that something was wrong until quite some time later, for example when gauze or a scalpel or something else was left behind during surgery.
This also means that you should talk to a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible, because time is definitely working against you. And in order to have a real chance at getting compensated for your injuries, you’ll need an experienced personal injury attorney at your side. But even with an attorney, you still need to file within those two years of the statute of limitations, or you may be out of luck – unless one of the very few exceptions described below applies to your case.
What Counts as a Personal Injury?
There is a wide range of injuries that can fit into that category, from injuries incurred during accidents, including car, motorcycle, truck, bicycle, pedestrian or other accidents, to workplace accidents, slip and fall accidents, dog bites, and more.
Personal injuries also include those suffered due to medical malpractice, though those have a different statute of limitation. They also include injuries suffered due to defective or dangerous products.
Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations
There are a number of exceptions to the statute of limitations. The first one applies if the affected person was a minor at the time of the injury. In that situation, the clock won’t start ticking until the person turns 18 and thereby comes of age. This means the person has until two years after they turned 18 to file a claim.
A similar exception applies if the affected person is lacking legal capacity for health reasons, for example due to a brain injury. Once they have regained legal capacity, the clock begins to tick.
An exception also applies when the defendant leaves the state of California after the accident and before legal action can take place. In that situation, the clock stops ticking until the defendant returns.
Medical Malpractice Exception
Yet another exception applies in the situation mentioned above, where the affected person was initially not aware of the injury, for example if the surgeon left something behind during surgery that takes a while to cause problems.
However, this scenario falls into the medical malpractice category, where the statute of limitations is just one year after the incident or one year after the affected person should have reasonably become aware of the injury. So if your injury falls into that category, you need to act fast.
What If the Defendant Is the Government?
If the defendant is the government, you need to act even more quickly because the exception works the other way round. There is a special requirement that you have to give notice to the government that you have a claim of personal injury before you file a lawsuit. This must be filed with the Department of General Services, along with a $25 fee, within six months of the date of the injury.
Once you have filed the claim, the government has 45 days to respond. If they deny the claim, you must file your lawsuit within six months. If the government does not respond, you have to file your lawsuit within 2 years of the date of the injury.
What You Should Do
If you have been injured through someone else’s fault or negligence, it’s important to talk to a personal injury attorney right away. While it may seem that you have plenty of time, there is a lot of work that your lawyer has to do when it comes to evaluating your case. They have to review the evidence and figure out what your chances for success may be. And based on that, they have to decide if filing a lawsuit is the right way to proceed.
In the meantime, you also have to get the appropriate medical care and follow your doctor’s instructions and treatment recommendations. Moreover, you need to keep track of all the paperwork resulting from your medical treatment and provide copies to your lawyer.
You should contact an experienced personal injury attorney right away for a free consultation and case evaluation. If you have a case, a personal injury will work with you on a contingency basis. This means you won’t have to pay them unless and until they win your case. And at that time, they will be paid a percentage from your settlement.
So if you have been injured, call or email us as soon as possible for a free case evaluation. We will be happy to help you.