If you have been injured in an auto accident, slip and fall, motorcycle, or any other type of accident, you need to know that you have a specified amount of time to file a lawsuit in California. If you don’t file your claim within that time, you probably will not be able to receive the compensation you deserve. This is where an Orange County personal injury law firm can help.

When you first have the accident, you may even be checked out by the EMT’s at the scene and released. Consider that you may be emotionally shaken, in mild shock, and really in no position to decide what you need to do. Numerous times, serious conditions such as brain injury, back injuries, or neck injuries don’t appear until days or even weeks later.

Many very serious injuries, such as TBI (traumatic brain injury), may not be symptomatic for weeks after the accident. A statute of limitations is the deadline you have for filing a lawsuit for your accident. In California, this “time limit” varies with the type of legal claim. For personal injury cases, California’s statute of limitations is two years from the injury. If your injury was not discovered right away, then the statute of limitations is ONE year from the day the injury was discovered.

Immediately after the accident, getting medical care is absolutely the first thing you need to do. Get your injuries determined the best you can at the time, and get treated for them. Get a report as to what specifically occurred, when it occurred, the circumstances involved, and a copy of the medical and police report. If you aren’t able to gather this information, try to have a friend or relative assist you.

It is wise to keep in mind that the statute of limitations for a personal injury case in California is strictly enforced. Also, it is often more complex to determine the dates involved than you would expect. It is in your best interest to not leave this time calculation up to chance. Consult with an Orange County California personal injury attorney and you will get the clear facts regarding your case.

What Happens if I Miss the California Statute of Limitations Deadline?

If you do pass the deadline to file your claim, your opposing attorney will certainly make it known to the court, and the California court may summarily dismiss your case on those grounds. If this occurs, and no matter how severe your injuries are or how clearly you show that it was due to another person’s actions or negligence, you will have very little chance to receive any compensation. Your personal injury attorney may still have a way to get you compensation by determining that your case may qualify you for one of California’s exemptions to the deadline.

In California, there are a variety of different scenarios that might be able to delay the running of the statute of limitations “clock,” or pause this timeline after it has started to run, effectively extending the two-year filing deadline.

Some examples of California’s reason for extending the personal injury statute of limitations are:

  • The “delayed discovery” rule dictates that you (the injured person) did not discover and was not aware of any facts that would have caused a reasonable person to suspect that he or she had suffered harm caused by someone else’s wrongful conduct.
  • You (or the injured person) were under 18 years old at the time of the accident, or you were lacking the capacity to make decisions. This “lack of capacity” could be due to mental illness, or possibly the ability to think rationally at the time.
  • The person who may have caused you the injury had left the state of California at some time after the original accident, and before the lawsuit could be filed.

Even these examples of exceptions to the filing timeline sound vague and complex, and they are! Here is where you must have a car crash attorney with extensive legal experience on your side. The cost of medical treatment, loss of wages, etc. for serious injuries can be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars and may not have been discovered until you are far past the date of the occurrence. Your personal injury attorney can research and compile ALL the details of your case, and possibly still get you the funds you need to recover and prosper.

What Can I Do If I Have Passed the Personal Injury Filing Deadline?

The standard personal injury lawsuit filing deadline in any given state might not apply to all types of claims for physical and mental/emotional harm. Many states have a statute of limitations dedicated to medical malpractice cases alone, and several states have passed very unique statutes of limitations for civil lawsuits over sexual assault. If you have become mentally incapacitated for a long time or possibly the rest of your life, the running of the clock might be slowed.

An example is a TBI or traumatic brain injury caused by a car accident, slip and fall, work-related accident, and many other reasons. These types of injuries are severe and may not be diagnosed until months (or years) after your accident. Your treatment, care, and loss of wages could mount into the millions of dollars and ruin your and your family’s future. Consult with your California personal injury attorney and know for certain.

Most personal injury firms in Orange County and all of California provide you with a free consultation on all these types of cases. Make sure the law firm you choose is fighting to ensure victims are fully compensated.

So if you pass the California personal injury statute of limitations, all is not lost. Get the professional legal advice you need so you will be able to give you and your family the future you deserve.