How many days after car accident can you file a claim in California?

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In every county under California Code of Civil Procedure section 335.1, the car accident statute of limitations to file a claim is 730 days – which is 2 years from the date of the vehicle accident. However, the state time limit to file an auto accident claim for a child is extended until they reach the legal age of adult, 18 years old.

Once the maximum 730 days time limit since the car accident date has elapsed in California, injured adults cannot file a lawsuit claim for a monetary settlement.

Like every other state in the country, California has a statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits. You must file an auto accident claim within the 2 year deadline to ensure you have a valid lawsuit.

While there are standard deadlines to sue after a car crash, there are also some exceptions that can extend or shorten that lawsuit deadline, which a local top California free lawyer for car accident claims can immediately help with filing.

Statute of Limitations in California for a Car Accident Injury Claim

For a regular personal injury lawsuit in California, you must file your claim withing two years of the time of injury. While you can still file a car accident claim after that timeline has passed, you more than likely forfeit your right to a full monetary claim settlement recovery by missing this deadline. There are, however, some general exceptions to this California timeline rule to sue after a car wreck.

If you only want to file an accident claim to cover damages or repairs to your car after a collision, California Code of Civil Procedure section 338 legally allows a claimant up to 3 years to file a lawsuit for a damaged vehicle against the at-fault driver of the auto crash.

Exceptions to the general statute of limitations are:

  • Delayed Discovery
  • Out of State
  • Minor Injured in Accident
  • Government Entity
  • Mental Capacity

Delayed Discovery

In some instances, the injury suffered from the accident may not surface immediately. If that is the case, the clock does not start ticking on the statute of limitations until that injury has been discovered. You will often see this in neurological and orthopedic injuries that can take time to develop. As long as you can prove this injury was related the accident that happened prior, you can still file your lawsuit. However, please note that the statute of limitation is then one year from the time the injury was discovered.

Out of State

There will be times when the defendant is out of state for one reason or another. This could be the obvious, where they run to avoid the lawsuit, or it could be something such as a truck driver being involved in the accident and not living in the area. Regardless of the reason, if the defendant is not in the state, the clock does not start ticking until he or she can be served.


In most cases, there will probably be an adult or guardian that can file a suit on behalf of a minor that is injured in a lawsuit. In the exceptions where there is no guardian or parent available, the clock does not start ticking on the case until the minor injuries becomes of age. Once he or she hits his or her 18th birthday, the statute of limitations kicks in.

Government Entity

When a government entity is involved, everything changes. First, you must file an administrative claim within six months of the accident. The entity will then have 45 days to respond to your claim. If the claim is denied, you can still file a lawsuit, but the suit must be filed within six months of said denial. If the entity does not respond to the claim, the regular statute of limitations kicks in, and you have two years to file the suit.

Mental Capacity

The final exception for filing a claim would be mental capacity of the injured party. If that party is deemed, for instance, to be insane, he or she will have his or her deadline extended until that person is deemed no longer insane.

Be Safe, File the Claim

As you can see, things can be a bit murky right out of the gate, which is why we always recommend consulting with an attorney after an auto accident. If you are worried about being able to afford an attorney, know that personal injury attorneys for the plaintiff work on a contingency basis, or commission, if you will. Their “pay” comes from a predetermined percentage of the case, less expenses of the case. Once the expenses are deducted and the attorney receives his or her share of the case, the remainder of the settlement is yours.

Consult with a California Car Accident Injury Lawyer

You should also know that your consultation in a person injury case is free of charge. Not only that, but you are also under no obligation to use the attorney’s services for having a consultation. You are free to talk to as many attorneys as you like about the case before signing an agreement of representation with the attorney.

If you were recently in an auto accident and believe you have a valid lawsuit, give us a call today at 855-633-0888. A member of our team will discuss the case and offer recommendations as to the best possible way to proceed to ensure you are awarded the best possible settlement for your case. Or, if you would like to learn more about our legal services before talking to one of our attorneys, please fill out the Free Car Accident Injury Consultation Form.

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