In California, there are specific time limits, known as statutes of limitations, within which a person must file a personal injury lawsuit or claim. These statutes vary depending on the type of injury and the circumstances of the case. For most personal injury cases, the statute of limitations is two years from the date of the injury. However, there are exceptions to this rule. To comply with the law and avoid any delays that could hamper your ability to claim damages, it is best to consult an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible.

What is the California Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Claims?

Personal Injury

For most personal injury claims, including those arising from motor vehicle crashes, slip and fall accidents, or dog bites, the statute of limitations is two years from the date of the injury.

Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice claims against healthcare providers must generally be filed within three years of the date of injury or one year from the date of discovery of the injury, whichever occurs first.

Product Liability

Claims for injuries caused by defective products typically have a statute of limitations of two years from the date of injury or its discovery.

Wrongful Death

Actions for wrongful death in California must generally be filed within two years. The statute of limitations begins from the date of death.

Government Claims

Claims against government entities, such as municipalities or state agencies, have shorter deadlines. Generally, a government entity claim must be filed within six months of the date of injury.

Individuals need to be aware of these statutes of limitations and take prompt legal action to protect their rights within the applicable timeframe. Consult an experienced California personal injury lawyer to avoid missing the specific deadlines relevant to the government agency and your claim.

Woman Stepping Out Of A Car After A Car Crash

Exceptions to the Average California Personal Injury Statute of Limitations

While statutes of limitations provide deadlines for filing personal injury lawsuits in California, certain exceptions may extend or toll these deadlines:

Discovery Rule

In cases where the injury or its cause was not immediately apparent, the statute of limitations may be extended for legal disputes to be resolved under California law. The clock typically starts ticking from the date the injury or its cause was discovered or reasonably should have been discovered.

Minority Tolling

If the injured party is a minor at the time of the injury, the statute of limitations may be tolled until they turn 18. Once minor victims turn 18, they typically have the standard statute of limitations time period to file a claim.

Insanity or Mental Incompetence

If the injured party is declared mentally incompetent or insane at the time of the injury, the statute of limitations may be tolled until they regain competence. This legal theory is used by experienced workers’ compensation and personal injury attorneys.

Defendant’s Absence from the State

If the defendant leaves the state for an extended period after the injury occurs, the statute of limitations may be tolled for the duration of their absence. An assertive attorney will make sure you recover compensation for your medical bills and other damages under state law even if the two-year statute of limitations to file a lawsuit has expired. However, you need to file your case with the court system within a reasonable period when the defendant returns.

Fraudulent Concealment

If the defendant fraudulently conceals information related to the injury or the claim, the statute of limitations may be tolled until the concealment is discovered or should have been discovered through reasonable diligence.

These exceptions can significantly impact the timeframe within which a personal injury claim must be filed. Speak to a knowledgeable attorney to determine if any exceptions apply to your case and how they may affect your legal rights.

Importance of Statute of Limitations in California Personal Injury Cases

Preservation of Evidence

Timely action for filing a lawsuit ensures that evidence related to the incident, such as witness testimony, medical records, and physical evidence, is preserved. Over time, evidence may be lost, destroyed, or become less reliable, making it harder to prove the case.

Encouraging Settlement

The existence of a statute of limitations encourages parties to engage in fair settlement negotiations. Knowing that a two year limitation exists for filing a lawsuit often motivates parties to explore settlement options to avoid the uncertainties and costs associated with protracted litigation.

Judicial Efficiency

Limiting the time within which a lawsuit can be filed helps streamline the judicial process by preventing the accumulation of stale claims. This allows courts to allocate their resources more efficiently and make an active administrative claim a priority.

Finality and Closure

Establishing a deadline for filing a lawsuit promotes finality and closure for both parties involved. Once the statute of limitations expires, the defendant can have confidence that they will not be subject to future legal action regarding the same incident.

Pitfalls that Experienced Personal Injury Law Firms Can Help You Avoid

Failure to Recognize Applicable Deadlines

Different types of personal injury claims have varying statutes of limitations. Without proper legal guidance, individuals may not be aware of the deadline that applies to their case. Personal injury attorneys have the knowledge to identify and adhere to the relevant deadlines based on the type of injury and jurisdiction.

Delayed Action

Waiting too long to consult an attorney or initiate legal proceedings can be detrimental to your case. Delays can lead to loss of evidence, fading memories of witnesses, and difficulty in gathering vital information. Personal injury attorneys act promptly to preserve evidence, conduct investigations, and initiate legal action within the statute of limitations.

Misinterpretation of Discovery Rule

In cases where injuries are not immediately apparent, such as medical malpractice or toxic exposure, the statute of limitations may begin from the date of discovery instead of the injury date. Attorneys are well-versed in applying legal doctrines like the discovery rule to ensure that clients’ rights are protected.

Failure to Consider Tolling Factors

Certain circumstances may toll or temporarily suspend the statute of limitations, such as the plaintiff’s minority status or the defendant’s absence from the jurisdiction. Without legal guidance, individuals may overlook these tolling factors, resulting in missed opportunities to pursue their claims.

Ignoring Government Notice of Claim Deadlines

Claims against government entities often have a shorter time limit and more complex procedural requirements compared to other personal injury claims. Failing to comply with these deadlines can lead to the forfeiture of your right to pursue compensation. Personal injury attorneys can tackle the challenges of government claims and ensure timely compliance with all procedural requirements.

Photo of an Injured Woman

Additional Personal Injury Laws You Should Know in California

Comparative Negligence

California follows a comparative negligence system, which means that compensation in a personal injury case may be reduced if the plaintiff is found to bear some degree of fault for the accident. However, even if the plaintiff is partially at fault, they can still recover damages, although the amount may be reduced proportionally.


In personal injury cases, plaintiffs may recover various types of damages, including economic damages (such as medical expenses, lost wages, and property damage) and non-economic damages (such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life). In cases involving egregious conduct, punitive damages may also be awarded to punish the defendant and deter similar behavior in the future.

No-Fault Insurance System

California operates under a fault-based system for car accidents, meaning that the party at fault for the accident is responsible for compensating the injured party. However, California also requires drivers to carry minimum liability insurance coverage to cover damages in an accident.

How Brown & Gessell Can Assist in Personal Injury Cases Within the Statute of Limitations

Timely Case Evaluation

Our experienced attorneys move fast to evaluate your case, determine the applicable statute of limitations, and complete all the legal formalities and paperwork within deadlines. We ensure that you understand the time constraints involved and take prompt action to initiate legal proceedings within the prescribed time frame.

Evidence Preservation

We understand the importance of preserving evidence to support your personal injury claim. Our car accident team works diligently to gather and preserve relevant evidence, such as medical records, witness statements, surveillance camera footage, and accident reconstructionist reports, ensuring that vital information is secured before it disappears or gets compromised.

Negotiation and Settlement

Our firm has a proven track record of negotiating favorable settlements with insurance companies and opposing parties. We leverage our negotiation skills and legal experience to pursue maximum compensation for our clients, seeking damages for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other losses.

Litigation Representation

In cases where a fair settlement cannot be reached outside of court, Brown & Gessell is prepared to litigate aggressively on your behalf. Our skilled trial attorneys have extensive courtroom experience and are fully equipped to advocate for your rights before judges and juries, ensuring that your case is effectively presented and pursued to its fullest extent within the statute of limitations.

Get Legal Representation from Top-Rated Personal Injury Attorneys in California

At The Law Offices of Brown & Gessell, we understand the challenges of California’s statute of limitations laws, and we are here to ensure that you don’t miss out on your opportunity for justice and maximum compensation. Our dedicated attorneys will carefully review your case, assess all relevant factors, and develop a strategic plan customized to your unique situation.

By entrusting your case to Brown & Gessell, you can rest assured that you will have a compassionate legal team fighting tirelessly on your behalf. Our personal injury attorney will handle all aspects of your case, from gathering evidence and negotiating with insurance companies to representing you in court to maximize damages.

To schedule your free consultation, call us at (209) 583-3938 or fill out this online contact form.