The statute of limitations may bar your personal injury claim if you do not file a lawsuit in time.

Is There a Time Limit on Personal Injury Lawsuits?

When you have been hurt in an accident, the last thing that you may be thinking about is filing a lawsuit.  You are dealing with the aftermath of the incident, which may include property damage, medical treatment, mounting bills, and ongoing pain and suffering.  But there is a time limit on filing lawsuits in personal injury cases, which makes it incredibly important to contact an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible after you are hurt.

California Statute of Limitations

The time limit to file a lawsuit after an accident or injury is known as the statute of limitations.  This is the length of time that is allowed for one person to sue another for their wrongful or negligent actions.  If you do not file a lawsuit within the statute of limitations, a court will dismiss your lawsuit and not permit you to sue the person who caused the accident.

While it may seem unfair to toss a personal injury lawsuit out of court because you didn’t meet the time deadline, this rule makes sense.  Witness memories fade after time, and it can be incredibly difficult to collect evidence after a prolonged period of time.  Some businesses, government agencies and hospitals may destroy photographs, videos, documents or paperwork after a certain period of time — which may make it impossible to prove a claim if this evidence isn’t gathered in time.  This rule also serves to protect defendants from the threat of being sued at any time for something that may have happened many years ago.

In California, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims is two years.  The clock starts to run on the date that the injury occurs, unless you did not know about the injury immediately.  In that case, the statute of limitations begins to run once you knew or should have known about the injury.  This situation may occur in medical malpractice cases; for example, if a doctor accidentally left a sponge in you after a surgery, but you did not experience any symptoms of having that sponge in your body until three years after the surgery, the statute of limitations would begin to run once you discovered what had happened.  The statute of limitations is then one year from the date the injury is discovered.

There are also situations in which the statute of limitations is tolled or paused.  This happens in limited circumstances that are largely related to a person being unable to bring the lawsuit for some reason.  This may occur if a party is declared incompetent, if the wrongdoer is a minor, or if the person who caused the accident or injury is out of the state.  A skilled personal injury attorney can assess the facts of your case to determine whether the statute of limitations has run.

There may also be special cases where the statute of limitations for personal injury cases is shorter than two years, such as if the federal, state or local government is the party that you are suing.  Again, a personal injury attorney is the best person to speak to regarding when you need to file a suit to maintain your legal rights.

The statute of limitations can be complicated.  This makes it all the more important to speak to an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible after you are injured in any type of accident.  At the Law Offices of Larry H. Parker, we offer free initial consultations and we never charge a fee unless we get money for you.  Contact our offices today at 800-333-0000 or to schedule a free initial consultation.

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