How Does the Statute of Limitations Work in California?
There are many reasons why you should file your personal injury lawsuit as soon as possible after your accident. First, there is no point in procrastinating. It is better to get things done as soon as possible from a purely logical standpoint. In addition, acting quickly means that you will receive a settlement in a shorter amount of time. This can be extremely important for those with severe injuries. If you find yourself drowning in medical bills, you obviously need a settlement as soon as possible. Paying for these medical bills might be even more challenging because your injuries prevent you from working and earning an income.
Acting quickly also helps you take advantage of a much wider range of potential evidence. As any seasoned attorney will tell you, evidence has a tendency to dematerialize as time goes on. Police reports can be lost, hard drives can be corrupted, and valuable witnesses can move out of the state or even pass away.
There is one more very important reason why you should file your personal injury lawsuit as soon as possible, and this is probably the most important reason of all. If you wait too long, something called the statute of limitations will prevent you from taking any legal action whatsoever. In other words, you lose your opportunity to recover a settlement.
If you wish to be proactive and prevent this from happening, you need to get in touch with a qualified personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Our legal professionals can immediately begin the legal process and ensure that the statute of limitations is not a concern. The sooner you get in touch with an attorney, the better. But this does not mean that you should rush your decision and choose the first attorney that you happen to come across. Although it is true that there is a time limit associated with a personal injury lawsuit, you should take your time and carefully select the most qualified and experienced personal injury attorney you can find.
What is the Statute of Limitations?
In broad terms, the statute of limitations refers to a law that “limits” a person’s ability to take legal action after a certain amount of time has passed. This legal action could be related to a civil case, such as a personal injury lawsuit, or a criminal case. In some cases, there is no statute of limitations. For example, murder cases typically have no statute of limitations.
If you are filing a personal injury lawsuit, you will not be concerned with the statute of limitations for criminal cases. Instead, you will need to determine the statute of limitations that California has set for your specific type of personal injury lawsuit.
Why is the statute of limitations necessary in the first place? Those who support these laws give a number of reasons. First, they often claim that the statute of limitations limits frivolous lawsuits. After all, the court system in California can only handle so many trials and cases each year. Putting some kind of system in place to limit the number of personal injury lawsuits filed each year can lighten this burden.
In addition, proponents of the statute of limitations often point out that evidence becomes less reliable as time goes on. Some evidence can be lost, and witnesses may not be able to remember the details of certain incidents after many years have passed.
The Statute of Limitations Depends on Your Type of Lawsuit
It is important to figure out the statute of limitations for your specific situation. There are many different types of personal injury lawsuits, and each one may have a slightly different “time limit.” Here are a few notable examples:
- Personal Injury – Two Years: If you have suffered a straightforward accident, you have two years to take legal action. This includes things like car accidents, slips and falls, product liability claims, and more.
- Medical Malpractice – One Year: If your injury was due to the negligence of a healthcare provider, you typically have one year to take legal action after you become aware of your injury OR three years from the date of the injury. You can choose whichever date gives you more time.
- Claims Against a Government Agency – Six Months: If you are suing the government in California, you typically have just six months to file a claim. For example, you might have been struck by a public transit bus in Los Angeles.
Why the Statute of Limitations Does Not Give You as Much Time as You Think
You may think that these statutes of limitations give you plenty of time to get your act together, connect with an attorney, and begin your lawsuit. Well, time has a tendency to creep up on you. You should also remember that it may take you a while to find a suitable attorney. It may also take you a while to recover from your injuries, to the point where you can think clearly and start being proactive. As a general rule, it is always a good idea to take action as soon as possible, just to be safe.
The Clock Only Starts Ticking Once You Become “Aware” of Your Injuries
Finally, these time limits generally only begin when you become aware of your injuries, and not necessarily when they occur. This is an important distinction because it can potentially give you much more time to take legal action. For example, an injury might leave someone in a coma for 15 years. They could technically still have the ability to sue after coming out of their coma because they were not actually aware they had been injured until regaining consciousness.
That is an extreme example, but there are many other more subtle reasons someone might be unaware of injuries until many years have passed. Those who have suffered from abuse at the hands of clergy members might repress their traumatic memories, for example. They too may have the ability to sue long after the abuse occurs.
Another example involves a brain injury. Sometimes, brain injuries can affect our memory centers. This can easily result in people losing all memory of the accident itself. Perhaps they simply wake up the next day with no memory of the previous 24 hours. It may be only after many years that they realize that they suffered a workplace accident.
Enlist the Help of a Qualified Attorney as Soon as Possible
If you would like to take a proactive approach to your personal injury lawsuit, you need to get in touch with Mary Alexander & Associates as soon as possible. With our help, you can pursue the compensation you deserve. Remember, you may still have the ability to sue even if the statute of limitations has expired. As previously mentioned, the clock only starts ticking once you become aware of your injuries. Because of this, it may be helpful to book a consultation even if you are worried that you have run out of time.
In any case, there is much more to a personal injury lawsuit than the statute of limitations. Although this process can seem daunting, we are ready and waiting to guide you forward. Book your consultation today, and we will be happy to answer all of your questions on the statute of limitations or any other legal topic.