If you were injured in a car accident in Los Angeles, you might not be worrying about how long after an accident you have to file a claim. You only have a limited time after an accident to make a claim, or you risk losing your chance to recover the compensation you need to cover your medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages.
This blog post will describe the statute of limitations that applies to car accident claims in California and will also detail the deadlines that insurance companies must comply with.
Statute of Limitations for a California Car Accident Claim
Every state has a statute of limitations that limits the amount of time that parties have to file certain types of claims. California provides a two-year statute of limitations for car accidents. This means that accident victims generally have two years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit against the at-fault party.
If the injury was not discovered right away, the claimant has one year from the date the injury was discovered. If the statute of limitation and then the accident victim tries to file a lawsuit, the court can dismiss the case, and the victim can be without legal recourse for the damages they have incurred.
Are There Exceptions To the Statute of Limitations?
Most car accident claims are subject to the two-year statute of limitations. However, there are some exceptions, including:
California extends the deadline to file a lawsuit when the injury is not discovered immediately at the time of the event and could not have been discovered by a reasonable person.
For example, if a victim suffered a traumatic brain injury in an accident but did not show symptoms immediately after the accident, the court can extend the deadline to file a lawsuit to one year after the injury was discovered.
The general statute of limitations does not apply to minors or individuals who lack the capacity to make legal decisions. In these cases, the statute of limitations is “tolled” or paused until the incapacity no longer exists.
For example, if a 16-year-old was injured in a car accident, the time limit to file a claim would not begin until the victim’s 18th birthday, so they would have until their 20th birthday to file a lawsuit against the at-fault party.
Defendant Leaves Jurisdiction
Another exception to the two-year statute of limitations is when the defendant leaves the State of California after causing the accident. The clock starts when the defendant returns to the jurisdiction.
These exceptions are rare and complicated. You can consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer to determine what the time limit is for your particular claim.
What Deadlines Apply To Insurance Companies in California?
Under the Fair Claims Settlement Practices Regulations, insurance companies licensed in California must comply with specific timelines, including:
- 15 days to acknowledge the claim, provide assistance, forms, and instructions, and start an investigation after the insurance company receives notice of the claim
- 15 days to respond to communications from you
- 40 days to accept or deny the claim after receiving proof of the claim
- 30 days to pay the claim after agreeing to a settlement
If the insurance company is not complying with these timelines, a car accident attorney in Los Angeles can help protect your rights.
How Long Can a Car Insurance Claim Stay Open?
California law allows an insurance company to decide to accept or reject a claim within 40 days. This time does not begin until you provide the insurance company with the proper proof of claim.
There are some instances when the insurance company will require more time to resolve a claim than others. For example, claims involving multiple claimants and injuries may take longer to resolve.
However, if the insurance company is intentionally delaying the claims process, this may be an indication of bad faith insurance practices.
A Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help
An experienced lawyer can help hold the insurance company accountable and can also help you ensure that your claim is filed in time. Most personal injury lawyers offer a free consultation and can determine whether you can still file your claim at that time.
Contact Our Car Accident Law Firm in Los Angeles, CA
If you were injured in an accident in Los Angeles, CA or you lost a loved one, and you need legal assistance, please contact us to schedule a free consultation. One of our Los Angeles car accident lawyers at M&Y Personal Injury Lawyers will get in touch with you soon.