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The personal injury statute of limitations in California is two years, giving victims this window to file a claim or lawsuit. Personal injury cases are like many other civil lawsuits in California, with a time limit in place to allow for compensation and litigation.

For help with filing a personal injury claim or lawsuit in California, turn to the legal team at Kuvara Law Firm in San Rafael, CA. Call us today at 1-800-4-INJURY to schedule a free consultation.

What Is a Statute of Limitations?

Many types of cases, including personal injury lawsuits, malpractice claims, and others, have a statute of limitations in place that gives claimants and plaintiffs a designated amount of time to build a case. The reason for this limit is the depreciation of evidence and the prevention of false claims. While these statutes might seem like they give you ample time to file a case, that time can quickly pass.

Depending on the type of case and the state, the statute of limitations for personal injury cases and others can range from one to several years. However, if you believe you have a valid personal injury case, and you’re wondering when you should sue for personal injury, it’s important to file a case as soon as possible to prevent the passing of the statute of limitations.

Even if you’re not sure whether you have a case, you may benefit from reaching out to personal injury attorneys to discuss a lawsuit. People suffer from a variety of personal injuries every year, and many of these instances likely warrant compensation through personal injury cases.

What Is the Personal Injury Statute of Limitations in California?

According to California law, the statute of limitations for personal injury cases is two years from the time of the injury or discovery of the injury. This means you have two years to build a case and initiate a claim or lawsuit against a liable party.

If you wait any longer than this two-year window, you may be ineligible to recover any compensation, or it can be difficult to do so.

How to Determine the Statute of Limitations in Your Case

You can tell what the statute of limitations would be in your case by considering the case type and when you suffered injuries or discovered them.

If you were involved in a car accident, slip and fall accident, or another type of incident resulting in an injury and other damages, you may not notice an injury until days, weeks, or even months afterward. In these cases, your statute of limitations would begin when you first noticed your injury or received a diagnosis.

Two years may seem like ample time to build a case, but it’s important to get started on one as soon as possible, as this can shorten the amount of time it takes to recover full compensation and cover medical expenses and other related costs, all of which can add up quickly.

Are There Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations?

Depending on the circumstances at the time of the injury, you may be able to have the statute of limitations for your case extended or postponed, i.e., “tolled.” These situations include:

The Plaintiff Is Under 18 at the Time of the Incident

You may have longer to file a claim or lawsuit if you were under the age of 18 at the time of the incident. In this instance, the statute of limitations would begin for California personal injury claims when the claimant turns 18.

Mental Incompetence

Another situation that could extend the deadline for a case is mental incompetence, if the plaintiff is mentally incapable of filing a lawsuit or claim. For example, a plaintiff might be in a coma following an accident or suffer extensive brain damage, rendering him or her cognitively unable to seek compensation. In these situations, the statute of limitations begins when the plaintiff is declared mentally competent.

Out of State

If a plaintiff or defendant is out of the state during the initial statute of limitations window, this could further postpone the statute until either party returns to the state.


The statute of limitations will also toll if a plaintiff is in prison either for two years or until the plaintiff’s release, depending on which comes first.

Types of Cases That Qualify as Personal Injury in San Rafael

There are many types of personal injury cases that can develop in San Rafael and across California. Knowing what these cases are can help you determine whether the personal injury statute of limitations in California applies to you.

The following are the main types of personal injury cases:

  • Car Accidents: A significant number of personal injury cases involve car accidents, with 158,801 injurious and fatal traffic accidents occurring in 2023 in California. Accidents can result from negligence in many instances, such as distracted, aggressive, or impaired driving that causes a collision and injuries.
  • Truck Accidents: Another common type of traffic accident can involve trucks. These cases are often more severe than car crashes because of the mass, size, and weight of these vehicles, leading to often catastrophic and fatal injuries. Driver fatigue, poor fleet maintenance, and other factors can contribute to these accidents, making drivers, trucking companies, and others liable.
  • Motorcycle Accidents: There are many motorcyclists in California, leading to many accidents involving motorcycles. Motorcyclists are more vulnerable to injuries in accidents because of the minimal protective gear and open exposure to hazards on the road compared to other motorists.
  • Slip and Falls: Personal injury cases can involve slip and fall accidents on private or public property. Property owners may be liable in these instances if they failed to maintain safe properties when they should have been aware of hazardous debris, slippery areas, or other obstructions that can cause injury. For instance, property owners must put up signage warning of slippery surfaces, especially after known spills or the use of liquid cleaning chemicals.
  • Dog Bites: Dog owners could be liable for dog bites in California if they should have known that their dog is likely to bite or otherwise cause injury to others. While some states have a “one bite rule” that prevents dog owners from becoming liable when a dog bites once, California instead holds dog owners liable regardless of the number of dog bite incidents.
  • Wrongful Death: If a party’s negligence or malicious conduct results in a person’s death, the victim’s family could file a wrongful death claim or suit against the liable party. These cases would seek compensation from negligent parties that cover all damages associated with the deceased victim’s injuries leading up to his or death, along with costs related to the person’s death, such as burial expenses and loss of income.

Additional types of personal cases include pedestrian accidents, premises liability lawsuits, bus accidents, and more. Generally, if you believe a liable party caused your injuries and other damages, you may be able to file a personal injury claim or lawsuit to recover total compensation.

When to Hire a Personal Injury Attorney

If you have grounds for a personal injury case of any kind in California, consider speaking with a personal injury attorney before your case passes the statute of limitations.

Why hire a personal injury lawyer, exactly? While your case might seem straightforward, having an experienced personal injury attorney by your side could mean the difference between a successful and failed case.

Attorneys in this practice area understand the local, state, and national laws that apply to your case and can work with you to determine precisely how much compensation you can seek. They’ll also work with you to gather all obtainable evidence to support your claim and file before passing the personal injury statute of limitations in California.

While most personal injury cases settle during the claims process, some settle in a trial setting and go to court. If this is necessary, you’ll also need an attorney with you who can represent you in court, which will help you navigate the legal process.

If cost is a concern when hiring a personal injury lawyer, a reputable San Rafael personal injury lawyer will allow you to meet with him or her for a free consultation. Additionally, most lawyers in this practice area charge on a contingency fee basis, meaning you won’t have to pay until the attorney reaches a settlement.

To learn more about how a personal injury lawyer at Kuvara Law Firm can help you in a personal injury case, contact us today and schedule a free consultation.

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