Car accidents are an unfortunate part of life, but they seem unavoidable. At some point, almost everyone experiences a collision of some kind. While many accidents amount to nothing more than a nuisance, occasionally things can get complicated.
Personal injury or death can create legal complications for all parties involved. After an accident occurs, the injured party has only a certain amount of time to file charges against the other party. Understanding this limitation is key to knowing your options after an accident.
What is a Statute of Limitations?
A statute of limitations is a limit on the length of time that can pass before a lawsuit is filed. The statute of limitations depends upon the severity of the crime. The worst crimes, like murder, have no statutes of limitations.
Car Accident Statute of Limitations in California
Statutes of limitations vary from state to state. In the state of California, drivers have two years to file a lawsuit after an accident. It’s important to seek legal counsel as soon as possible after an accident if you intend to file charges. The countdown of two years begins immediately after the accident. If a lawsuit is not filed within that time, you may lose out on your opportunity to recover damages.
What Can Affect the Statute?
If you are past the statute of limitations, the courts may not accept a claim, but there are exceptions to the rule. Courts will consider extending the deadline in certain situations. Some of them include:
- The focus – If the sole focus of the claim is property damage, the limitation extends to three years.
- Involvement of Minors – If a minor is injured in an accident, the limit does not begin until they reach the age of majority (18). At that point, they have two years to file a claim.
- Government Claims – If your claim is being filed against the government, an action must be filed within six months. Additionally, drivers must complete this step before moving on to any other action. If the government denies your claim, only then can a lawsuit be filed. The deadline for filing is one year from your denial.
- Wrongful Death – In cases where a death results from the accident, the two-year statute doesn’t begin until the death occurs. In many cases, someone involved in an accident may live for quite a while after the accident. This is specifically for instances where death does not occur until sometime later.
- Bankruptcy – In cases where the accused files for bankruptcy, the court will place an immediate hold on the case. It will stay in place until the bankruptcy case plays out, at which time the court will revisit the case.
- Mental Capacity – If the accident results in you no longer having the capacity to sue, the statute of limitations will be extended until such time as your mental capacity returns.
If none of these apply to your situation, the two-year statute of limitations will likely stand.
Why is There a Two-Year Limit?
Courts limit the amount of time that a client can bring a case for several reasons. The most important issue that statutes of limitations address are the relevance of evidence.
Evidence is most reliable immediately after the fact. With time, key eyewitnesses become less dependable. Time clouds the memory of events, and it becomes difficult for courts to determine exactly what happened. It’s important that prosecutors present their cases as soon afterward as possible.
What if You File Past the Deadline?
If the deadline has passed, you can still file your case but it will most likely be dismissed by the court. Courts don’t like extending the statute of limitations – and it’s against the law. That’s why it’s vital to discuss your options with a legal professional as soon as possible.
Contacting a lawyer should be your first step instead of filing a lawsuit because they will better understand the timing of things. Sometimes it’s better to present the case to insurance and hold off on filing the lawsuit. Time may allow for the full picture of your case to take shape. Medical bills, for example, may not come to an end for some time.
Action Step: Now What Do You Do?
If you have been injured in an automobile accident, your first step should be to bring on a legal expert. Not only will they be able to determine if you have a case, they will also know which actions to take first.
The team at Power Trial Lawyers is here to help you get the compensation you deserve. We are here to make sure that you take the right steps and don’t make a decision that you might later regret.
Navigating the complexities of an auto accident is hard enough. Having to do so when you are also dealing with a personal injury can feel overwhelming. It’s essential that you equip yourself with a knowledgeable team that can fight for you.
Contact us today to discuss your case! Visit us online or call us (844) 844-POWER to make sure you receive the settlement you rightfully deserve.
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