How Soon After I am Injured do I Have to File a Lawsuit?

California Statute of Limitations: Don’t Lose Your Right to Compensation (GJEL Accident Attorneys)

  • Act Quickly: 2-Year Deadline for Most Personal Injury Claims in California.
  • Why Waiting Weakens Your Case & Potential Settlement.
  • Free Consultation: Protect Your Rights. Get the Compensation You Deserve.

Read the full article for a California personal injury attorney’s in-depth explanation of the statute of limitations and its impact on your personal injury case. Learn why GJEL Accident Attorneys advises acting swiftly to preserve evidence and maximize your compensation.

Generally speaking due to the statute of limitations in each state you should file a lawsuit as soon as possible after an accident.

Have you been injured and are wondering how soon after you have to file a lawsuit? This blog entry will tell you:

  • The strict time limits for personal injury claims in California
  • Important information regarding the personal injury lawsuit process
  • Why each day you wait is harming your case, and how acting immediately is in your best financial interest

If you’ve been injured due to negligence, then you are entitled to receive compensation from the guilty party. However, the State of California imposes a strict deadline known as a statute of limitations that limits the amount of time following an accident in which you are allowed to file a claim.

Not only is there a statute of limitations, the longer you wait, the more harm you are doing to the potential outcome of your case.

Here are some answers regarding how soon after an accident you have to file a lawsuit:

How long do I have to file a personal injury lawsuit in California?

The State of California imposes a strict two-year limit from the date of the injury to file a claim. This applies to:

  • Car Accidents
  • And most other personal injury claims

Think of the statute of limitations as a “countdown” that determines the validity of your case. What confuses many of our clients is exactly when their countdown begins. That is, from when does the two-year limit actually begin?

Some important information regarding the start date of your countdown:

  • Car Accident Claims – The clock begins to countdown on the date of the accident.
  • Accidents Resulting in Death – In this unfortunate situation, the clock begins to countdown on the date of the person’s death, not the day of the injury.
  • Vehicle Damage – You have three years to sue over damages to your vehicle.
  • Claims Against a Government Entity – If you want to make a claim against a city, county, or the state, you have only six months to initiate the proceedings.

How does waiting to file a claim harm my case?

While the law may say you have a two-year limit to file your case, in reality, the deadline is much sooner. If you wait too long, you may severely decrease the size of the settlement you receive, or worse, lose the case entirely.

Click here for a visual representation of a typical personal injury claim timeline

The complexity of personal injury cases requires a dedicated team of lawyers to construct a case, prove the fault (known legally as “negligence”) of the person who hurt you, and calculate the damages you’ve suffered (for example, missed time at work, pain and suffering, and medical bills). The longer you wait, the less time we have to do this.

More importantly, the passage of time often obscures a witness’ memory. Since witness and expert testimony form the basis of many cases, the prosecution will use this against you, weakening your case and your attorney’s leverage when negotiating your settlement.

Should You Wait to File a Lawsuit in California?

No. One of the most critical reasons why you should not wait to file a lawsuit in California is the importance of timely filing. Filing a lawsuit on time ensures that you do not miss out on the opportunity to seek legal redress. Waiting too long to file a lawsuit can result in the case being dismissed by the court, leaving you with no legal recourse.

Evidence Preservation

Another critical reason why you should not wait to file a lawsuit in California is evidence preservation. Evidence is a crucial component of any lawsuit, and delaying the filing of a lawsuit can result in the loss of essential evidence. For instance, witnesses may relocate or forget important details, physical evidence may be lost or destroyed, and documents may become unavailable or destroyed. By filing a lawsuit promptly, you increase the chances of preserving crucial evidence that can be used to support your case.

Memories Fade Over Time

Human memory is fallible and fades over time. Waiting too long to file a lawsuit can result in fading memories, making it difficult to present a compelling case. For instance, witnesses may forget important details, and the plaintiff may forget specific events or circumstances surrounding the case. By filing a lawsuit promptly, you increase the chances of preserving accurate memories that can be used to support your case.

The Burden of Proof

In California, the burden of proof rests with the plaintiff in a civil lawsuit. This means that the plaintiff must present sufficient evidence to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. Waiting too long to file a lawsuit can make it challenging to gather sufficient evidence to meet the burden of proof. By filing a lawsuit promptly, you increase the chances of gathering sufficient evidence to meet the burden of proof and win the case.

The Cost of Delay

Delaying a lawsuit can also be costly. For instance, delaying a personal injury lawsuit can result in mounting medical bills and lost wages, resulting in financial hardship. Furthermore, delaying a lawsuit can lead to mounting legal fees as the case becomes more complex and takes longer to resolve.

The Impact of Delay on Settlements

Delaying a lawsuit can also impact settlements negatively. As time passes, the defendant may become less willing to settle, knowing that the plaintiff has limited legal options. Furthermore, the value of the settlement may decrease

Factors Affecting the Statute of Limitations

Several factors can affect the statute of limitations, including the discovery rule, minority rule, disability rule, fraudulent concealment, and tolling.

The discovery rule provides that the statute of limitations does not begin to run until the plaintiff discovers or should have discovered the injury or damage.

Different types of cases have different statutes of limitations. For example, personal injury cases in California have a statute of limitations of two years, while breach of contract cases in California have a statute of limitations of four years.

How can I learn more about the limitations on my injury claim?

Personal injury claims are some of the most complex cases in law. The only way to know how the laws affects you, how much you can expect to win, and whether or not it’s too late to file is to contact personal injury attorneys in California immediately for a consultation.

Written by Andy Gillin. Last Updated 04/15/2024

Author Photo

Andy Gillin received his Bachelor’s Degree from the University of California at Berkeley and his law degree from the University of Chicago. He is the managing partner of GJEL Accident Attorneys and has written and lectured in the field of plaintiffs’ personal injury law for numerous organizations. Since 1972 he has been helping seriously injured victims throughout northern California fight & win their personal injury cases. Andy is one of the top awarded & recognized wrongful death lawyers in northern California.