California Car Accident Statute of Limitations Explained (2024)

Car accidents happen every day, sometimes with devastating effects. If you or a family member is struggling with injuries you suffered in a car accident that another driver caused, you must know your options for legal recourse and understand the value of legal representation as you seek compensation for your losses. The state upholds relatively flexible laws concerning an injured driver’s right to recover compensation for an accident, but they also face certain responsibilities they must uphold to preserve their right to pursue recovery.

The statute of limitations is the time limit you have in which to file a civil suit. In California, most personal injury claims are beholden to a two-year statute of limitations. So, for example, if your car accident occurred on October 1, 2022, you would have until October 1, 2024, to file your personal injury claim against the driver at fault for the accident. However, recovery from most car accidents is a complex and multifaceted process that usually begins with an insurance claim.

California Car Accident Statute of Limitations

Filing Your Auto Insurance Claim

Every driver must have auto insurance that includes a minimum of $15,000 in bodily injury liability coverage for a single person injured in an accident caused by the policyholder. Additionally, their policy must allow for at least $30,000 in bodily injury liability coverage for all persons injured in an accident caused by the policyholder, and the policy must also provide at least $5,000 in property damage liability coverage.

Drivers are heavily encouraged though not required to purchase underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage in addition to the other mandatory coverage required by state law. This is because the state has one of the highest rates of uninsured drivers in the country, and if any such driver hits you, you will be unable to rely on their insurance for compensation. However, if you have your own underinsured/uninsured driver coverage, you could file a claim against your own policy for some initial compensation, and this should not lead to any adjustments in your own coverage or premium rate since you did not cause the accident.

An experienced attorney is a valuable asset when you must file an auto insurance claim. Most insurance companies look for all the reasons they can find to reduce a claim payout or deny a claim, often relying on claimants’ lack of awareness and desperation to succeed with these methods. If you have a reliable car accident attorney representing you, the insurance carrier will be less inclined to attempt any bad-faith handling of your case. Your attorney can draft a demand letter to the insurance carrier and resolve any disputes that might arise with your case.

Recovering From Your Car Accident

When insurance alone cannot compensate for the losses you suffered in a car accident, the next phase of your recovery will be a personal injury claim against the driver who caused the accident. Your attorney can help you build this civil suit, gathering the evidence necessary to firmly establish liability beyond any doubt, and they will also help you secure the documentation you will need to prove the full extent of the losses you suffered.

Under California law, you have two years to file your personal injury claim after a car accident, but it is always best to start the process as soon as possible. State law permits you to seek full compensation for any and all economic losses you suffered because of the defendant’s actions, and you can also claim compensation for the pain and suffering you experienced. Many other variables could come into play in your case, and you have the best chance of maximizing your results when you start your case as soon as possible after your accident.

FAQs

Q: What Is the Statute of Limitations for a Car Accident in California?

A: If you intend to file a personal injury claim in response to a car accident someone else caused, you must do so within two years of the date of the accident. Working with an experienced personal injury attorney is the best way to ensure your case meets all applicable procedural requirements, including the statute of limitations.

Q: How Long Do I Have to File an Auto Insurance Claim After an Accident?

A: The time limit for an auto insurance claim is much shorter than the statute of limitations for a civil suit against the driver who caused the accident. Typically, you must file your auto insurance claim within a few days of the accident, or at the very least, you must notify the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier of your intent to file the claim.

Q: What Happens if a Driver Hits Me and Flees the Scene?

A: You still have the right to file a civil claim if you are hurt in a hit-and-run, but it may prove difficult to locate the responsible driver. Once they are located, the driver who hit you and fled the scene will face legal charges for hit-and-run, and this will also increase their financial liabilities to you. Your attorney can advise you as to how such behavior may impact your recovery process.

Q: Do I Really Need an Attorney to Recover From a Car Accident in California?

A: Technically, there is no legal requirement that you must hire legal counsel to recover from a vehicle accident someone else caused. However, you could jeopardize your ability to recover your damages if you attempt to handle the case on your own. Working with an experienced personal injury attorney dramatically improves your chances of reaching a positive outcome for your case, and they can likely secure much more compensation in a shorter time than you could manage alone.

The Kreeger Law Firm is prepared to extend the full scope of our professional resources, skills, and experience in helping you recover from a recent car accident. The sooner you secure our legal representation, the better your chances are of reaching the best outcome for your recovery efforts. If you are ready to learn how our team can empower your recovery, contact us today and schedule a consultation with a Sacramento car accident lawyer you can trust.