A statute of limitations is a set of laws governing how long a plaintiff has to file a civil claim within a state. Each state has different statutes of limitations, as well as different deadlines depending on the type of civil claim. States impose time limits for filing claims to make the legal process just for defendants. Otherwise, a plaintiff could wait an exorbitant amount of time to bring a claim – such as after key evidence is gone or eyewitnesses have forgotten what they saw. Here is the statute of limitation laws in California.
California’s Statutes of Limitations
Statutes of limitations differ by state, but not by county or city. The statewide statute of limitations will apply to all cases brought within California. Filing a claim in San Mateo, therefore, would follow the same time limit as a claim in San Francisco, Los Angeles, or any city in the state of California. That being said, the time limit for filing your claim in San Mateo will be one of the following depending on the type of civil case:
- Personal injury: two years.
- Wrongful death: two years.
- Property damage: three years.
- False imprisonment: one year.
- Medical malpractice: three years (or one year from discovery).
- Veterinarian malpractice for death of an animal: one year.
- Trespassing: three years.
Most deadlines apply to either the date of the accident or the date you discover your injuries. In many cases, such as car accident claims with obvious injuries, these dates will be the same. Some claims, however, will involve a plaintiff who did not discover his or her injuries until after the accident – sometimes long after, as is the case in most mesothelioma claims. Asbestos exposure can take 10 to 40 years to develop into mesothelioma. If you don’t discover your injuries until later, the clock generally starts upon discovery of the injury.
Claims Against the Government
In the event a government agency or on-duty government employee caused your accident, or if your injuries happened on public land, your claim will have different statutes of limitations than non-government claims. The time limits for claims against the government are often much shorter than general time limits.
In California, you must file an official claim with the alleged defendant within just 180 days of the date of the accident. You then have the right to file your claim with the small claims court if the defendant rejects liability. You must file your lawsuit with the civil courts within six months after receiving a response from the government entity.
What If You Miss the Statute of Limitations?
Statutes of limitations determine the absolute maximum amount of time a claimant has to file a case with the civil courts in San Mateo. Missing your filing deadline generally means giving up your right to any compensation you may have won in a personal injury claim. The California courts are strict in adhering to the statute of limitations.
There are a few exceptions, but in most cases you absolutely must meet the deadline to have a chance at compensation. Otherwise, the courts will either deny your claim outright or accept a defense against you stating you missed your statute of limitations. Talk to an attorney about your specific case if you think you might have missed the deadline. Sometimes the courts will toll, or extend, a statute of limitations in special circumstances.
For example, if the injured party is a child, he or she might have a longer amount of time to file. Some medical malpractice claims, such as those involving objects left behind in the body cavity, also have longer deadlines. A prompt consultation with a personal injury lawyer after any type of accident can give you information about your specific statute of limitations in California.