What is the Statute of Limitations for Car Accidents in California?

Statute of Limitations – California Car Accidents

The statute of Limitations is a law that defines the amount of time after a car accident that a lawsuit must be filed. Each state’s statute of limitations is different, so it is important to check with a personal injury lawyer in your state before filing a lawsuit.

Statute Of Limitations in California

In California, the statute of limitations varies depending upon the type of car accident damage sustained (personal injury, or property damage) and whether or not there is a death involved.

Personal Injury

It doesn’t matter if the personal injury resulted from a car crash where a driver, passenger, motorcycle rider, bicycle rider, or pedestrian was injured, the statute of limitations runs for two years after the car accident occurred. That means that the personal injury lawsuit paperwork must be filed within two years of the car accident date.


If a person dies from injuries sustained in a car accident, and the survivor(s) brings a wrongful death suit against the responsible party, the wrongful death suit must be filed within 2 years of death, rather than 2 years from the date of the car accident. In other words, the statute of limitations begins on the day the person died. A wrongful death suit can be filed by the surviving family, a representative of the deceased’s estate, or persons who have suffered financially because of the death.

Property Damage

In California, if you suffer property damage in a car accident, you have 3 years from the date of the accident to file a claim against the driver responsible for the damage to your property.

What if You File after The Statute of Limitations Ends?

It is important to understand that if you are unable to file the lawsuit paperwork within the statute of limitations window, the court can throw out any lawsuit you file. But, there are exceptions to that rule. The exceptions include car accidents that involve minors and persons whose injuries are not immediately apparent after a car accident occurs.


In the case where a minor is injured due to someone else’s negligence, the statute of limitations doesn’t begin until the minor reaches 18 years of age.

Injuries Undiscovered After the Car Accident

Sometimes, injuries sustained in a car accident may go undetected for days, weeks, or months. In such cases, you may be allowed two years from the detection date to file the necessary paperwork. But, the longer it takes for your injuries to become apparent, the harder it will be to prove that the injuries were caused by the car accident and not by any other event(s) since the accident. A highly skilled and experienced car accident personal injury attorney will be able to take a look at your personal injury case to assess how long you have to file the lawsuit paperwork.

Seeking Compensation for Future Losses

When injured in a car accident, it may take months or years before you find out the true extent of your injuries. It can also take months or years before you know how long the healing process will take, what percentage you will heal, and what physical and psychological limitations you will have. So, how do you file a lawsuit within the 2-year limit if you may not know the extent of your long-term injuries, how long your treatment may last, and how long your pain will last? The law allows injury victims to collect for not only losses already incurred, but also predict future losses.

In the case where you have extensive and long-lasting injuries, pain and suffering, or disability, it is important to hire a personal injury attorney who has extensive experience in estimating not only current losses but can also accurately predict a future loss. At M&Y Personal Injury Lawyers, we understand the physical and psychological trauma that car accident victims often endure. Give us a call, and tell us about your car accident case so that we can help you.

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