2024 How Long After a Car Accident Can You Sue in California?

The ability to file a civil claim is a vital legal tool. It allows for victims of car accidents that were another party’s fault to ensure that they receive the compensation and restitution that they deserve. Whether the case ends up going to court or not, your California car accident lawyer can credibly hold that as a legitimate possibility while attempting to negotiate with an insurance company. 

However, it’s important that this occurs within the timeframe when filing a claim is still a possibility. Once that’s no longer an option, a major advantage is not available anymore.

How Long After A Car Accident Can You Sue in California?

Statute of Limitations in a Car Accident Claim

The length of time before a claim must be filed is determined by the relevant law’s statute of limitation. For personal injury law, which a car accident would fall under, the standard statute of limitations is two years from the time when the injury occurred. This means that, in most circumstances, someone will need to file a claim within two years of the date that the accident occurred. While this may be the deadline for most car accidents, there are some possible situations where the deadline could be a little different.

Discovering an Injury

Although rarely applicable in the case of a car accident, there is a two-year discovery rule in California’s personal injury law. This starts the two-year statute of limitations from when the injury was discovered or should have reasonably been discovered. If there happens to be an injury from the car accident that is discovered later, it may still be eligible.

Unique Circumstances

There are some other possible exceptions that could lengthen or shorten the time to file. For instance, if the person who was injured was a minor or had a legal disability, that could affect the statute of limitation. Who is being sued is also important, as claims against the government carry a different statute of limitations. To understand the statute of limitations in your situation, it’s helpful to talk with an experienced car accident attorney in Sacramento, CA.

The Importance of Filing a Claim Quickly

While two years may seem like a long time, it’s still critical that you speak with a lawyer as soon as possible. For the sake of your case, you want to leave your lawyer with as much time as possible to investigate your situation and possibly negotiate a settlement. 

FAQs

Q: What Restitution Can You Collect in a Car Accident Claim in California?

A: The restitution available in a car accident claim is called damages. These damages cover the costs that are a direct result of the injuries from the accident. In most cases, the damages will come in two different forms, and a third may occasionally be included as well. They are:

  • Economic Damages – These damages will cover costs like medical bills, property damages, and lost wages. Almost any loss with a clear financial component will be included in this category. Future costs are also a part of these damages, so if an injury is serious enough that it will require ongoing care or limit someone’s ability to work, those future medical costs and lost earning capacity will be compensated as well.
  • Non-Economic Damages – These cover the psychological costs that may be incurred as a result of the car accident. Losses like pain and suffering or loss of enjoyment in life are included here.
  • Punitive Damages – These are only awarded when something egregious has been done, and they act as a punishment for that behavior. This is rare in a car accident, but there is occasionally some road rage or other action that can be seen as having been malicious.

Q: Should You Settle a Claim or Take a Case to Court?

A: Deciding between settling a case or going to court can be difficult, and it is highly specific to your circumstances and situation. Generally, though, there are some pros and cons to either option. 

A court case offers a greater possibility of compensation, but it carries a higher risk of getting a lesser damages award or even nothing at all. A settlement, though, while likely not as large a maximum payout, does have the advantage of avoiding the risks inherent in a trial. It also does not take as long as the court process may take. 

Whether these trade-offs are worthwhile in your situation is a matter that should be discussed with your lawyer.

Q: What Does a California Car Accident Attorney Do?

A: A California car accident attorney is responsible for seeking the most comprehensive compensation package for you that they can find. This usually starts with a thorough investigation that helps identify liable parties and the evidence that may be used to show their fault. That information can be helpful in trying to find a settlement that is agreeable to both sides, as your lawyer represents you in negotiations. 

However, that’s not always possible. If taking the case to court is necessary, then your lawyer can represent you through that process and fight for your compensation as well.

Q: What Should You Do After a Car Accident?

A: The most important thing that you can do after a car accident is to seek help with your injuries. However, to whatever extent those injuries allow, the aftermath of a car accident can be an important time for gathering information that can be helpful to your claim. For instance, if you get pictures and videos of the scene, any street signs involved, and the road conditions, those could be helpful. Contact information for any eyewitness can be useful as well.

A California Car Accident Lawyer Can Help You Seek the Restitution You Need Before It’s Too Late

A personal injury claim can be invaluable in helping people get the compensation that they deserve. The threat of these claims could lead to a more willing negotiator. If, though, an agreement cannot be reached, the ability to argue for your compensation in court is critical to protect the victims. A California car accident lawyer can help with those possibilities and with seeing that you act within the statute of limitations. Contact Kreeger Law Firm today to discuss your options after a car accident.