In the state of California, you must file a personal injury claim within two years. But, car accidents are complex events. Many situations can blur the lines of when and how to file a personal injury claim. Read on to find out if the statutes of limitations apply to you and what you can do to preserve all of your legal rights.
DISCOVERING AN INJURY AT A LATER TIME
Does this sound like you?
You were recently in a car accident and, despite the intensity of the crash, you felt relatively fine a day or two later. A few weeks went by and you felt okay—except for lingering pain in your lower back area. After about two months, the pain began to increase. The pain became more severe, day after day. Fast forward to now and the pain is close to unbearable. Your doctor says the pain can be attributed to your accident months prior and recommends surgery or physical therapy.
Can you still file a personal injury claim?
Most generally, yes—if time hasn’t run out. A lawyer can help you still file a claim if injuries resulting from the car accident were only recently discovered. However, cases like these are multifaceted. The law may or may not apply to your injury case. It’s so important to contact a lawyer if you are in this situation.
HOW TO CALCULATE TIME
You have legal rights to file a claim the moment you are involved in a car accident. Time starts from the first day of your car accident until the statute of limitations—that is, the amount of time you have to file a claim—runs out.
Not every personal injury claim is this straightforward or simple. For example, in cases of government claims, the statute of limitations is even shorter. Most government claims require claim submission within six months of the accident. Special claim forms, submission procedures and guidelines must be closely followed when filing a government claim. An experienced lawyer at our firm can help you file your case against the government.
WHAT HAPPENS IF I FILE A CLAIM WITHIN THE APPROPRIATE TIME LIMIT, BUT THE CASE IS NOT RESOLVED BEFORE THE TIME LIMIT EXPIRES?
Every car accident case has its own complexities, but if you file a personal injury claim before your statute of limitations runs out, then you have essentially stopped the clock. Time to resolve the claim is automatically granted for a specific amount of time once the lawsuit is filed. So, it’s important to file a claim right away to be entitled to this very important benefit.
Legally, this is called “tolling” (i.e., extending) the statute of limitations. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you file a claim, maintain your legal rights, and ensure that your case is handled within the appropriate context of the law.
ARE THERE ANY EXCEPTIONS TO FILING LATE?
Most times, the law can be black and white. Statutes of limitations are no exception. If you file your claim late, even by a few days, your claim will most likely be dismissed. There are generally very limited exceptions to tolling the statute of limitations. According to the state of California, circumstances that may allow a late filing include:
- Delayed discovery of injury. The state of California says that a claim must be filed within two years from the date of injury. If the injury was not discovered right away, then the claimant may have the right to file a claim once the injury is discovered.
- Defendant leaves the state. If the person at fault leaves the state of California, your statute of limitations to file a personal injury claim may be extended.
- Age of claimant and/or defendant. If a minor turns 18, the claimant and/or defendant may have a valid case filing a personal injury claim outside of the two year statute of limitations.
- Individuals who have been incarcerated may be able to file a personal injury claim after the two year statute of limitations.
- Mental capacity. Delayed claims surrounding mental status are complex. Talk to a lawyer who can appropriately advise your next steps.
ARE TIME LIMITS DIFFERENT FOR PROPERTY CLAIMS?
Yes. Property damage claims must be filed within three years of the accident. Remember, personal injury claims must be filed within two years, which is a shorter time limit than property damage claims.
Property damage claims are filed when you need to be reimbursed for damages to your vehicle following a car accident. Sometimes, a property damage claim is filed when an insurance company refuses to pay for repairs. Other times, a claim is filed when you are offered too little for your vehicle if it is deemed a “total loss.” A total loss occurs when repairs are more costly than the value of your vehicle.
HOW CAN I PRESERVE ALL MY LEGAL RIGHTS?
The best way to preserve all of your legal rights is to file a legal claim with the help of an attorney right away. The law is intricate. There are many ins and outs of the law and a lawyer can help ensure no loose ends are left behind. Don’t wait until time has run out. Work with an attorney who can strategize and preserve all the legal rights of your personal injury case.
WHEN TO CONTACT A LAWYER
Speak to a personal injury attorney as soon as you can. File a claim with the help of an attorney quickly to ensure that your legal rights are maintained. If you have a complex case where the statute of limitations may not have applied, it’s important to seek the advice of an experienced attorney right away. Even a few days can make a big difference. Remember, once you file a claim, the clock stops for a period of time, and your legal rights are preserved until the case is settled.
CAN I GET FREE LEGAL HELP?
Speaking to our lawyers right now is absolutely free. When you hire us as your attorneys, there are no upfront costs. That is, we don’t charge you anything upfront to hire us as your lawyers. Instead, we work on a contingency fee and we only collect when we win your case.
Working with a lawyer is helpful because the claims process is easier for you versus filing on your own. All the complexities are handled by our experienced lawyers—again, with NO out-of-pocket costs from you. In addition, an experienced attorney can help you recover what your claim is actually worth. Too many times, insurance companies want to settle quickly and with pennies on the dollar. When you work with our nationally-recognized firm, our attorneys will work hard to get you the money you deserve.
PINES SALOMON INJURY LAWYERS, APC
Pines Salomon Injury Lawyers, APC is nationally-recognized as one of San Diego’s top law groups specializing in personal injury claims. Call us today: 858-551-2090. Speak to an award-winning lawyer for FREE.